CND Vice-President Dr Ian Fairlie writes for us on the purchase of the Wylfa nuclear site in last week’s budget.

On March 6, as part of the Spring Budget, the Chancellor announced a deal with the Japanese multinational Hitachi to purchase the defunct and closed Wylfa and Oldbury nuclear sites for £160 million. Hitachi suspended the much larger Wylfa project in 2019 and then abandoned it in September 2020 due to the massively rising costs of building nuclear plants.

Many nuclear enthusiasts read into the Chancellor’s statement that the government was going to build new plants at these sites. However a careful reading of the Budget statement reveals no such commitment. Instead, several independent commentators drily remarked that if Hitachi had decided the Wylfa nuclear plant was commercially untenable, why would anyone in Government think it was.

In fact, it is likely the £160 million land purchase was little more than a sop to myopic nuclear obsessives in the Conservative Party. The reality is that, in energy strategy terms, this sum is a drop in the bucket compared to the estimated £46,000 million (£46 billion) which Hinkley C nuclear plant would cost if it ever were completed. And, in another comparison, the Chancellor confirmed that the budget for the 2024 Contracts for Difference (CfD) auctions mainly for wind and solar projects will be set at over £1,000 million (£1 billion).

The environmental group People Against Wylfa B called the Chancellor’s statement a cynical move to try to support Tory Virginia Crosbie MP to keep her Ynys Môn parliamentary seat. Not much chance of that happening as her majority is under 2,000, and several recent by-elections have shown that Tory majorities of even 20,000 or more are now unsafe.

Photo credit: Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street / Flickr