Nuclear Power Stations in Wales
Wales has only had two nuclear power stations in its history, both decommissioned, namely Wylfa on Anglesey and Trawsfynydd in Gwynedd. Despite this, Wylfa Newydd, the site for the next Hinkley Point C nuclear reactor, continues to attract nuclear developers from around the world. Although there are still concerns about these plants, they remain a vital part of the country's energy supply.
The government is committed to developing new nuclear power plants, including Sizewell, as part of its efforts to decarbonise the UK's power supply. The recent surge in the wholesale price of energy has focused ministers' attention on the potential of nuclear power as a replacement for gas as a back-up energy source. The UK government could take a stake in Sizewell, or consider selling it to a third party for a larger profit.
However, the project has faced criticism from protesters and opponents. The UK government recently banned a Chinese company from building 5G mobile networks in the country. This has led to suspicions about the role of CGN in the UK's civil nuclear program. A recent blacklisting of CGN over accusations of stealing US nuclear technology has further complicated the situation. But the government is still working out ways to remove CGN from future infrastructure projects.
The project has multiple approvals including a nuclear site licence and various environmental permits. Chinese state-owned CGN will undertake joint ground investigation and marine surveys as part of the project. It will use HPR1000 reactor technology to produce 2.3 gigawatts of electricity. The reactor will be designed to reduce radioactive waste and maximise fuel usage. In addition to this, the project will use Chinese-designed equipment. Therefore, it is expected to save money for both countries.
The controversial proposal to build a new nuclear power station in north Wales has been slammed by critics of the plan. The development was a part of the UK's Cold War strategy, but now the country is faced with new issues and uncertainty about the project. A one-off evidence session was held in September 2021, where Committee members heard from industry and safety experts, potential developers for the site, and a senior official from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The Committee will also consider Wales' role in the UK's nuclear ambitions and the development of nuclear technologies.
The government has a stake in the nuclear power station, so the decision to support the project is largely predictable. This will cost taxpayers PS20 billion, so any support for Wylfa would likely be redirected to another project. But what about the economic impact of a new nuclear plant in Wales? The government has a number of options for supporting nuclear development in the UK. One of these options is the construction of a small modular reactor in Wales.
The Sizewell nuclear power station in Wales was constructed in the 1960s. Its first reactor, Sizewell A, was completed on 21 March 1966, and it is now the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. The Sizewell plant is slated to operate at or near 100% output for up to 20 years. Its life extension is expected to cost £1.4 billion. The Sizewell plant was approved for a further ten years, until 2025. The plant will be extended with a strategic siting assessment and environmental assessment. It will be funded from operational revenue.
The sizewell site has two nuclear power stations: the old Sizewell A, which still operates today, and the new, larger Sizewell B, which will feature twin EPR reactors. It is a controversial project and the government is looking for alternative funding. However, the project's opponents have expressed concerns about its Chinese involvement. Some say it is an unnecessary risk. In contrast, the UK government and the French government both support the project.
The Sizewell B design went through a lengthy public inquiry and thorough safety review by the NII. The Pre-Construction Safety Case was submitted to the NII in August 1981. A public inquiry was held between 1982 and 1985, resulting in over 16 million words of evidence. The chairman of the public inquiry, Sir Frank Layfield, recommended that the project proceed. The Pre-Construction Safety Case was accepted by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate and the site licence was granted in August 1987.
Built in the mid-1960s, the Trawsfynydd power plant is the first inland nuclear power station in Britain. The complex comprises four buildings, each fulfilling a different purpose. These buildings are connected by covered walkways. The nuclear reactor buildings contain twin Magnox reactors, which were constructed using reinforced concrete. To honor its Welsh heritage, the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) decided to create a giant mosaic, made of boulder-size pebbles, to serve as a symbol of the power station. The result was an architectural masterpiece: a Welsh dragon.
The nuclear power station was closed in 1991, and is now being decommissioned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. The process is expected to take decades. A spokesperson for the company said that radiation exposures to workers and the public are well below the maximum permissible levels, and that these limits are set to protect the public. The Welsh Government and Public Health England said they had no ongoing investigations into cancer clusters caused by exposure to radiation. However, if they were to see a pattern, the public health authorities would investigate it.
The Trawsfynydd Nuclear Power Station was constructed in the early 1960s and was operational in 1965. It is the first nuclear power station in the United Kingdom to be built inland. It was designed by Sir Basil Spence and opened for business in 1965. It had twin Magnox reactors and operated for 26 years, until it was shut down in 1993. It used fresh water for cooling and was part of the Maentwrog hydroelectric project.
Hitachi's ABWR reactor design
Hitachi's ABWR reactor design is set to be used in the construction of a new nuclear power station in Wales. The new reactor is similar to the ones destroyed in Fukushima, and its designs have passed the general design acceptance process in the UK. Horizon Nuclear Power, the company behind the project, is currently in negotiations with the British government over various governmental support options, including potential debt and equity investments.
The company is seeking billions of pounds in funding from the UK government for its Wylfa nuclear power station project. However, experts have said that the technology being used for the project is not yet proven. This is why a major nuclear power project in the US was abandoned by Toshiba, because it was unable to survive under the economic conditions. But the UK is one of the last countries to pursue this technology.
The UK's Nuclear Regulation Agency requires a rigorous evaluation of the design of each new nuclear reactor, and this involves a generic design assessment. The ABWR reactor design was submitted for evaluation to the Environment Agency, the Office for Nuclear Regulation, and Natural Resources Wales. Despite the strict scrutiny, Hitachi's ABWR reactor design was approved by the agencies in December 2017 and the Planning Inspectorate in June 2018.
Energy market reform
The U.K. is looking at a new nuclear power project, the Wylfa, but the project was abandoned due to lack of funding. The government has said nuclear power is vital to reaching net-zero emissions by the mid-century. Yet, the U.K. has been a difficult place to build nuclear power projects of any scale. Meanwhile, natural gas prices are soaring, and the risk of blackouts this winter is growing.
The UK government is currently considering a regulated asset base model for nuclear power plants, a model that is more stable than the cost-of-development contract. Under this model, the operator of a nuclear power station is guaranteed regulated rates that cover the costs of developing the plant and collecting authorised returns on the asset's value. This approach protects the operator of the facility, as it ensures sufficient revenue to continue operations.
In the UK, the government has promised to build at least one large-scale nuclear power station by 2025. However, the opposition Conservative Party has announced its support for the government's push to replace the nuclear fleet. As of January 2015, the Welsh government was in talks with Electricite de France SA for its Sizewell C nuclear plant. In the meantime, the government is considering whether to acquire the Wylfa site and take caretaker roles in the project.
A controversial new nuclear power station in Wales has drawn a huge amount of opposition. The government invited nominations for nuclear sites and in July 2011 confirmed the locations of eight new plants. The government then introduced planning reforms to expedite the construction of the new power stations. In December 2014, the government announced regulatory justification for the AP1000 and EPR reactor designs. In January 2015, the government confirmed that the ABWR reactor design was acceptable and could be used in Wales.
The GDOS is expected to make its final environmental impact assessment report available to the public in accordance with law. PEJ has submitted documentation for transboundary environmental impact assessment. It also consulted with experts on environmental protection and investment processes to ensure that the proposed nuclear power station does not cause irreversible harm to the region. The GDOS will publish its environmental impact assessment report as soon as possible. The GDOS will publish the report based on the findings of the transboundary EIA, which will include the local environment as well as the Welsh population.
There are also significant environmental consequences of nuclear plants. Radiation levels around these plants were found to range from three to six millirems per year, while those around coal plants were fifty to two hundred percent higher. In addition to these health consequences, a nuclear power plant would create enormous amounts of waste heat. Further, the environmental impact of a nuclear power station in Wales may also affect the health and safety of the people living in the region.
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