Call for bigger North Wales Growth Deal following shelved Wylfa Newydd plans

(Title Image: New Civil Engineer)

After last week’s announcement that Hitachi was shelving plans to build a nuclear power station at Wylfa on Anglesey, an emergency question was tabled to the Welsh Government in the Senedd by Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn).

“A blow for younger generations”

Rhun accused the Welsh Secretary, Alun Cairns MP, of being “irresponsible” in his suggestion the project could be revived in a few years when there’s no clear route by which it could be. He then called for a guarantee of more investment in the region.

“The politics of nuclear is one thing; I understand the arguments for and against nuclear energy, but as an economic opportunity, of course, this announcement has been a blow to generations of young people on Anglesey, and they now need to see that everything is being done to invest in their futures. So, will the Minister, who has given some signals of this already, make a commitment to invest more in the North Wales growth deal?”
– Rhun ap Iorwerth AM

At the moment the Welsh and UK governments have each committed £120million on the deal, but Rhun argued that had to be “increased significantly”.

Minimum pause

Economy & Transport Minister, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South), said that while some of the 16 earmarked projects within the growth deal were at least partially dependant on Wylfa Newydd going ahead, many are not. The Minister was still hopeful something could happen with Wylfa Newydd:

“I think it’s fair to say that we must do all we can collectively here, in north Wales, and the UK Government, working with Horizon, to ensure that the project, if it can go forward, does go forward with the minimum pause. In terms of the new funding model, and the work that’s underway, we’ve been assured that the review and the report will be completed by this summer.”
– Economy & Transport Minister, Ken Skates

A particular measure the Minister was keen on pursuing was a new tariff for marine energy to help the development of the sector, building upon centres of excellence in and around Anglesey.

He also told AMs that if the UK Government increases its contribution to the growth deal, the Welsh Government will follow suit.

Jack Sargeant AM (Lab, Alyn & Deeside) called for a better funding mechanism for major construction projects and also for maximum effort to be put into supporting other potential major projects in the north, such as a Heathrow logistics hub.

Modular reactors

Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales) asked about progress on research into smaller modular nuclear reactors – which have been mooted for the former Trawsfynydd nuclear power station.

The Minister was unequivocal. The development of modular reactors – known as SMRs – wouldn’t make up for the anticipated 9,000 jobs that would’ve been provided by Wylfa Newydd.

Darren Millar AM (Con, Clwyd West) pointed to another possible energy project – a north Wales tidal lagoon – which has attracted interest from investors around the world.

The Minister repeated that a favourable funding model for the marine energy sector needed to be in place; a marine energy summit is due to take place in Swansea next week. What the Minister didn’t want to see happen was one part of Wales pitted against another part for investment in energy projects.

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