However, this announcement still does not mean that Wylfa B will be built -- it merely provides Government permission for the private sector developer, in this case Horizon Nuclear Power, to build a nuclear power station at that location if they believe there is a viable business case for it. And this is unfortunately were the problems for Horizon start because the Government has not softened its stance on nuclear subsidies: there will still be no government money available to support either the construction or future de-commissioning of any new plants. Horizon has repeatedly asserted that modern nuclear reactors are far more expensive to build than conventional coal and gas-fired stations and therefore need some financial support to be both viable and competitive over the long term. In order to get around the "no government subsidy" policy they have suggested a consumer-funded levy, i.e. a government sanctioned surcharge collected from all energy bills -- however this was seemingly rejected by Chris Huhne last month in favour of simply setting a "minimum carbon price floor" which would make cheaper but higher polluting energy (i.e. that made from coal and gas) more expensive, thus making expensive but cleaner energy (such as nuclear and other renewable sources) more competitive.
Will Horizon be able to proceed on this basis? We don't know -- and as I wrote last month the two German companies (E.on and RWE npower) which own Horizon will anyway be hit by a new German tax on nuclear fuel rods from next year which will anyway seriously impact their profits. As Islanders we will have to now wait with crossed-fingers and see what pronouncements Horizon make following Chris Huhne's official statement next week.
That said, as the excellent Dylan Jones-Evans writes today, there is plenty that the Welsh Assembly Government can be doing in the meantime to move things forward:
"[T]his could mean that there is a great opportunity for Wales to become a real centre of expertise in this sector, and it is now up to the Welsh Assembly Government to ensure that European Structural Funding can be used effectively to help build up value added projects for the new power station. For example, helping to create an energy technology park around the new development and ensuring that the skilled workforce needed for the power station and its construction are sourced locally are just two simple examples on how the project could benefit the Anglesey economy.
I fully expect WAG to announce a detailed strategy for supporting the Wylfa B development and how it will benefit the local economy over the next few months."
Yes, WAG, we will be watching and waiting...
|Albert Owen questioning|
UPDATE: With thanks to 'Avatar' who spotted it, I recommend that interested parties watch this clip (from around 11.41 onwards) of Albert Owen last month questioning Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne, on what does and does now constitute a subsidy for the nuclear industry. To be fair to Albert he asks some good questions -- but does momentarily withdraw back into his famous 'Albert Fantasyland' when he tries to claim that Labour were not against Nuclear subsidies (a tactic he also deployed during the general election) - they were.