The two or three nuclear reactors scheduled to be built in northern Wales will bring significant economic benefits rather than fears about nuclear disasters, visiting Welsh economy minister Edwina Hart said.
Hitachi Ltd. subsidiary Horizon Nuclear Power is planning to build two or three advanced boiling water reactors on Anglesey island, with an eye to starting them up in the early 2020s.
The island already hosts the Wylfa nuclear power station and its two aged reactors. One is closed and the other is expected to be retired in a couple of years, leaving the country devoid of atomic power.
Hart said many locals are looking forward to the Hitachi project.
“It’ll create thousands of new jobs during the process of construction,” Hart said in an interview with The Japan Times on Wednesday. “We think it’ll be very successful.”
The triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant in 2011 ignited a huge debate on nuclear power safety at a global level. Some countries, including Germany, declared they would terminate the use of nuclear power.
But Hart said it is crucial to maintain a good mix of different energy sources — including nuclear.
“We want to see a mix between renewables, nuclear and others. So this is a question of getting the balance right,” she said.
As for safety, Hart said the United Kingdom conducts research to limit the risk of atomic accidents.
“There’s been considerable research done on where the best locations are for nuclear within the U.K. And of course, Anglesey is one of those particular locations, so we have no concern on that particular issue,” she said.
The plan will be assessed by the Office for Nuclear Regulation, the U.K.’s atomic regulator.
In addition to the Wylfa plant, Wales has the Trawsfynydd nuclear power station, which was closed in 1991 and is in the process of being decommissioned.
Wales hosted 50 Japanese companies last year, including such big names as Sony Corp., Panasonic Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp., which have 6,000 employees. Hart said Wales offers a flexible workforce that can smoothly adapt to new production lines, projects and skill requirements.
This year marks the 40th anniversary since the first Japanese company invested in Wales, and Hart said Japanese firms have gotten deeply involved with Welsh communities.
“We don’t see them as Japanese companies, I am afraid. Some of them have been with us so long. We think they are Welsh companies, and that’s what the communities regard them as,” she said.
She said Wales hopes to attract more Japanese firms and investment and it is especially interested in those involved in the life sciences — a growth field the country wants to enter.