Plans for Welsh nuclear power plant delayed by concerns over seabirds | Environment

Plans for a nuclear power station on the Welsh island of Anglesey have been delayed by concerns over the plant’s impact on colonies of protected seabirds.

The proposed twin reactors at Wylfa were given the green light by the UK’s nuclear regulator in December, with backers hoping to win financial support from the government.

The Welsh plant would have a capacity of 3GW, similar to the 3.2GW of the nuclear power station being built at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

Horizon Nuclear Power, a subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate Hitachi, told planning authorities it would submit its planning application for the Wylfa plant by the end of March, which it called a “major milestone”.

But the company postponed submitting the development consent order because it needs to thrash out the impact building the power station will have on colonies of sandwich, Arctic and common terns.

The species are protected under the EU birds and habitats directive.

Nearby Cemlyn nature reserve is home to thousands of sandwich terns, which account for about fifth of the birds’ UK population and is the biggest on the country’s west coast.

Wildlife groups are concerned about the effect of noise and light from the power station’s construction, as well as a reduction in food for the birds to forage on. Land clearance for the vast site is also expected to displace potential predators, such as rats and foxes.

Chris Wynne, a senior reserve officer at North Wales Wildlife Trust, said: “We are looking at a range of ecological impacts at one of the most significant tern colonies in the UK.”

new UK nuclear plants graphic

Horizon is talking with Natural Resources Wales, the Welsh equivalent of the Environment Agency, and has committed to avoiding fracturing rock from a local outcrop during the breeding season of the terns, which are notoriously fickle breeders.

The company hopes to resolve the issues with the Welsh agency and submit the development consent order (DCO) before the end of June.

The delay is expected to be a bump in the road rather than major headache for Horizon, which believes Wylfa could be generating electricity by the mid-2020s.

But the firm said its target date for a licence from the UK’s nuclear regulator may be postponed as a result of the planning delays.

1200 - Plans for Welsh nuclear power plant delayed by concerns over seabirds | Environment



Anglesey was the site of Britain’s oldest nuclear power station until a few years ago. Photograph: Charlie Leventon/GuardianWitness

Hitachi is one of four companies hoping to build a nuclear power station in the UK, and Wylfa is the most advanced in terms of progress, after EDF Energy’s Hinkley Point C.

Notes of meetings between Horizon and the government’s planning inspectorate also reveal that the company expects the plant to generate more power than previously thought.

Due to more efficient turbines, the power station will have a capacity of 3GW, up from 2.7GW. Hinkley Point C’s 3.2GW of capacity would provide about 7% of the UK’s electricity.

Horizon is also less than three months away from the self-imposed deadline beyond which it will not commit any more funding without a financial support package from the government. The company has already spent £2bn, and is spending more than £1m a day on the project.

Duncan Hawthorne, its chief executive, said last year: “By the middle of 2018, we need to have something tangible to show to our shareholders that allows them to keep funding.”

A Horizon spokesperson said of the planning delays: “Before we finally submit the DCO we intend to take a little more time to finalise our approach to dealing with protected bird habitats near to the Wylfa Newydd site. We’re confident we’ll resolve this and make a strong DCO submission.”