Japan's Hitachi freezes British nuclear project

Hitachi had planned to build a new plant next to the decommissioned Wylfa Nuclear Power Station (pictured)
Hitachi had planned to build a new plant next to the decommissioned Wylfa Nuclear Power Station (pictured)

Hitachi said Thursday it would freeze construction of its stalled nuclear power station in Wales due to financing problems, a blow to Britain's nuclear strategy and a costly decision for the Japanese firm.

Shelving the project at the Wylfa Newydd plant on Anglesey, a small island off the Welsh coast, will cost the Japanese firm 300 billion yen ($2.8 billion), it said.

Hitachi launched the three trillion yen project after acquiring Britain-based Horizon Nuclear Power in 2012.

The British government had reportedly agreed to finance two thirds of the construction cost, with Hitachi as well as Japanese and British investors scheduled to cover the balance.

But Hitachi's fund-raising efforts have been deadlocked at home while its request for additional investment from the British government has been shelved with London consumed by Brexit.

"Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of everyone involved, the parties have not been able to reach an agreement to the satisfaction of all concerned," Hitachi said.

The Japanese firm added: "As a result, Hitachi has decided to suspend the project at this time... as it is now clear that further time is needed to develop a financial structure" for the project.

It said it had made the decision based on its economic reasoning as a private company.

But in an apparent bid to reassure London of its commitment to the country, Hitachi also said it would "continue to discuss a nuclear power programme with the UK Government" which it hoped would "further contribute to UK energy policy."

Asked about the deal in parliament Wednesday, Prime Minister Theresa May said London wanted new to contribute to the country's energy mix.

But she stressed: "We must also ensure that the cost of any energy that is provided by nuclear is at a reasonable level for the consumer."

'Unstable environment'

The unwelcome news comes as May is still reeling from a historic defeat over her Brexit deal but Hitachi CEO Toshiaki Higashihara told reporters that Britain's EU exit had had "no bearing" on the decision.

Nevertheless, one analyst said Brexit would make it harder to attract long-term investments such as in nuclear plants.

Toshiaki Higashihara said the decision had nothing to do with Brexit
Toshiaki Higashihara said the decision had nothing to do with Brexit

Speaking to AFP ahead of the announcement, John Drzik, president of global risk and digital at US professional services giant Marsh, said that "cross-border investors in infrastructure are looking for stability in the legal, regulatory and political climate."

"If you have more confidence in that, you're more willing to invest. You have less confidence in that, you're going to pull back. It's going to be harder to attract foreign investors into an environment which is considered unstable," Drzik told AFP.

The halting of the project also deals a blow to Japan Inc's attempts to expand its nuclear power businesses overseas after the Fukushima disaster of March 2011 effectively halted demand for new reactors in Japan.

A massive tsunami triggered by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake in March 2011 overwhelmed reactor cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in northeastern Japan.

It caused reactor meltdowns, releasing radiation in the most dangerous nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

The crisis spurred Japan to strengthen its safety regulations under a new Nuclear Regulation Authority watchdog.

The accident also prompted nuclear power companies overseas to review their projects, a move that increased safety costs.

Toshiba has also been on the ropes after being forced to sell off its troubled US nuclear energy firm Westinghouse, which racked up billions of dollars in losses before being placed under bankruptcy protection.

A Japanese-led consortium including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is also reportedly scrapping a project in Turkey.

The setbacks have dealt a blow to Abe's efforts to help Japan Inc export its infrastructure—a key pillar of his business diplomacy.

For its part, the British government has placed nuclear power at the heart of its low-carbon energy policy, in stark contrast to Europe's biggest economy Germany, which vowed to phase it out in the wake of Fukushima.

British anti-nuclear campaigners and environmentalists have long denounced the government's steadfast commitment to nuclear power, urging it to focus instead on renewable sources like wind and solar to meet Britain's future energy needs.

"A clever move now would be for the government to accept that the nuclear bet didn't pay off, stop holding back renewables and have an urgent rethink about the future of UK energy," said Doug Parr, chief scientist for Greenpeace UK.

Explore further

French group to help Japan dismantle nuclear reactors

© 2019 AFP

Citation: Japan's Hitachi freezes British nuclear project (2019, January 17) retrieved 14 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-01-japan-hitachi-british-nuclear.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Jan 18, 2019
"Living near the Fukushima nuclear site impacts life expectancy less than London's air pollution"

"British anti-nuclear campaigners and environmentalists..."
anti-nuclear = pro-fossil-fuels
solar/wind = 20% solar/wind + 80% coal/oil/gas/fracking to compensate intermittencies.
The so-called "environmentalists" are in fact fossil-fuel lobbyists.

Nuclear Willie, you better admit that there is no ethical basis for adding any further of these ticking radiation bombs across our countries. The tobacco industry and their lobbyists had at one point to accept the reality. And the promoters of dirty atomic gambles at the risk of millions of citizens and series of future generations will one day also have to listen to their conscience.

Jan 19, 2019
Arsenides and other chemical carcinogens present in solar panels are worse than tobacco/asbestos.

Human bodies emit in a natural way as much radiation(gamma ray from potassium-40) as a carbon-free nuclear power plant.

"Exposure to radiation kills more people working in the solar industry than in nuclear power."
"Surprisingly, the larger exposures due to the installation of electrical power plants are caused by the installation of solar and wind plants, which results from the use of rare earth minerals and estimates of occupational exposures for their mining." - Sep 2018

I am not sure what will make you look beyond your collection of marketing material. Maybe these two conversations:

Jan 20, 2019
The main lesson from Fukushima is that nuclear is the safest even in worst-case scenarios: zero deaths from radiation exposure; the tsunami is that was the real killer together with anti-nuclear fearmongers and sensationalist mass media that induced more deaths(heart-attacks, abortions, suicides) that ended favoring coal and other fossil fuels(backup for intermittent renewables) which air pollution respects no border and kills millions of people every year.
Another lesson is that: wind and solar are a joke, a trillion-dollar fiasco at reducing emissions, unable to replace coal/oil/gas/fracking even in small-scale worse yet in large-scale, they are inherently intermittent/weather-dependent, and parasites on other reliable forms of energy, specifically coal and natural gas(fracking/methane).

Jan 20, 2019
Rare earth minerals aren't radioactive except for promethium.

Where do you get this stuff, @Willie?

Jan 20, 2019
"Rare earth minerals are processed primarily from ores and minerals that naturally contain uranium and thorium."
"..one ton of rare earth minerals produces about one ton of radioactive waste.."
"Rare earth metals are used in solar panels and wind turbines ..."

"Exposure to solar radiation kills as many as 18,000 Americans per year."
"There are no examples of members of the general public in the west who have died due to exposure to radiation from civilian nuclear power in the last 50 years".
"The report, Global Burden of Disease of Solar Ultraviolet Radiation estimates that up to 60,000 deaths a year worldwide are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR)..."

Jan 20, 2019
You guys can propagandize for nuclear all you want. They still stick the tax-payer with the decommissioning bills after the for-profit investors have cashed out and walked away.
So much for "limited government"

Jan 20, 2019
You guys can propagandize for solar/wind all you want. In the end, you are propagandizing for fossil fuels, coal and gas, which prevent people from freezing in the dark when wind stops blowing or sun stops shining or during prolonged droughts.
solar/wind = 20% solar/wind + 80% coal/oil/gas to compensate intermittencies

"Nuclear energy takes into account the cost of decommissioning from the start. It also internalizes all externalities. So why don't other technologies do that too?"
"If other energy technologies would have to meet the same pollution, safety and reliability standards that nuclear meets, then those other technologies would become wildly expensive and totally unaffordable. They would be wiped out overnight, forever."
"Germany must prepare for "wind turbine decommissioning wave""

Willie, how high is your plants' insurance against the ramifications from terrorist attacks, missiles from foreign countries, comets etc. having an unfortunate trajectory etc.? Zero, as nobody would be able to pay it besides taxpayers.

Jan 21, 2019
...the ramifications from terrorist attacks...
"The only terrorists who have ever attacked nuclear plants were anti-nuclear activists like the ones leading Germany's efforts to incite a continent-wide panic."

"Fear-mongers are more dangerous than terrorists"
"I call them ecoterrorists, because they do more harm than good to the environment."

Eco-terrorists attacking a reliable source of carbon-free energy:

"Terrorist posing as an Environmentalist"

"Myth: Nuclear power plants are likely targets for terrorism."

While waiting for the first serious terrorist case to prove you wrong, this leaves 2 other unanswered questions.

Jan 21, 2019
...While waiting for the first serious terrorist case to prove you wrong...
"Even the worst nuclear accidents result in far fewer deaths than the normal operation of fossil fuel power plants."
"The fossil fuel industry in ONE DAY does vastly, vastly more damage to the planet and to human life than the entire civilian nuclear industry has done in sixty years."

By providing "greenwashing" (decorative facade) for coal/oil/gas in order to displace carbon-free nuclear energy,
intermittent renewables are as deadly and dirty as fossil fuels.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more