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Government Finalizes £160 Million Deal to Procure Hitachi Nuclear Sites, Signalling Revival in UK's Energy Landscape

Image Credit: HM Treasury

Today's Budget address saw Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announce a landmark agreement with Hitachi, signalling a pivotal step towards rejuvenating the UK's nuclear ambitions. The £160 million deal secures acquiring two prospective nuclear power plant sites—Wylfa in North Wales and Oldbury in Gloucestershire—previously shelved by the Japanese conglomerate in 2020.

Referring to the Wylfa project on Anglesey by its Welsh language and constituency name, Hunt told the Commons: "Ynys Mon has a vital role in developing our nuclear ambitions."

The decision to acquire these sites comes at a critical juncture, as it bolsters the government's efforts to deliver 24GW of nuclear capacity by 2050. With only two projects—EDF's Hinkley Point and the Sizewell C project—remaining in the pipeline, acquiring Wylfa and Oldbury sites becomes imperative to secure a sustainable energy future.

The move is poised to galvanize the nuclear industry, providing a much-needed boost to replace ageing nuclear plants and drive down costs through economies of scale. However, it is not without its critics, with some green groups expressing concerns over potential delays and budget overruns.

However, Hunt reiterated the government's goal for nuclear "to provide up to a quarter of our electricity by 2050" and also confirmed the Great British Nuclear Agency would begin the next phase of the SMR selection process, "with companies now having until June to submit their initial tender responses".

In addition to the nuclear deal, Hunt announced £360 million in funding for advanced manufacturing and research projects, underscoring the government's commitment to innovation and sustainability. This includes additional support for the Green Industries Growth Accelerator and initiatives to promote electric vehicles, zero-emission aviation, renewables, and carbon capture.

Furthermore, Hunt outlined plans to expedite the grid connection process for clean energy projects, addressing the backlog of renewable energy projects awaiting grid connections. These measures reflect the government's efforts to transition towards a low-carbon economy while stimulating economic growth.

However, the Budget address was not without controversy, as tax increases on environmental levies and oil and gas profits drew criticism from opposition parties and environmental campaigners. Labour leader Keir Starmer accused the government of complacency, highlighting the need for more decisive action to address economic challenges and combat climate change.

"There we have it, the last desperate act of party that has failed," Starmer said. "Britain in recession; the country's credit card is maxed out."

Starmer pointed out that the UK's GDP per capita has not grown for two years, marking the most prolonged period of stagnation since 1955. He argued that a "sticking plaster approach to public investment will cost Britain more in the long run."

He also highlighted Hunt's failure to provide more support for the clean energy sector, arguing there was "no plan to get Britain building again with a reformed planning system, no ambition to invest in clean British power for cheaper bills or energy security, and no inclination to move away from insecure low paid jobs and strengthen employment rights so we can finally make work pay".

Starmer said the Budget "could have been a moment of contrition - a reflection on fiscal recklessness, an apology perhaps for the ridiculous chaos they've inflicted on businesses, communities and investors in this country".

"And yet [there is] still no sustainable industrial strategy, still no national wealth fund crowded private investment, still no urgency on speeding up critical infrastructure projects, and no recognition that they have left our standing as a country that always keeps its promises in tatters," he added.

More to follow...


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