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Hitachi buys Horizon to save UK's nuclear future

Germans get the wind up and dash for gas: Japan steps in

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Japanese tech giant Hitachi has swooped in to rescue the UK’s foundering Horizon nuclear energy project with a commitment to generating thousands of new jobs and knock-on benefits for the local supply chain.

Horizon Nuclear Power was put up for sale by its German owners E.On and RWE in the spring without having built a single reactor, ironically due in part to Germany’s decision to abandon nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

The value of the deal was not disclosed but the FT pegs it at about £700m. It will see a “100 year commitment to the UK and its vision to achieve a long-term, secure, low carbon and affordable energy supply”, according to Hitachi president Hiroaki Nakanishi.

This will specifically involve the construction of two to three 1,300MW plants at Horizon’s existing sites in Wylfa, Anglesey and Oldbury in Gloucestershire, with the first to be ready by 2025 at the latest.

The power stations will contain Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) technology, a Generation III boiling water reactor. Four ABWRs have already been built on time and to budget in Japan by Hitachi, although UK regulators have yet to approve the design.

While some will no doubt point to Fukushima as a sign the UK should be looking to scale down its reliance on nuclear, Hitachi was quick to point out the benefits to the economy the deal will bring.

The government echoed its comments and said the project would help achieve its vision of a “low carbon secure energy future” for the country.

Between 5,000 and 6,000 jobs will be directly created at each site during the building phase of the project with another 1,000 permanent roles per site once completed. In addition, some 60 per cent of the value of the first reactor will be spent on locally sourced supply chain goods, services and personnel, Hitachi said.

As if to prove its commitment to UK industry, Hitachi named Rolls Royce and Babcock International as the first two British companies which have signed memoranda of understanding to help it complete the massive project.

Assurances were also given regarding help that would be given by Hitachi to build a strong, permanent nuclear skills base in the UK by working with universities and local colleges. ®

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