In a newly released report, Nuclear Energy in Wales, the UK Parliament’s Welsh Affairs Committee considers Wales’ role in the UK Government’s nuclear ambitions, reviewing the economic impact of nuclear energy as well as the development and feasibility of implementing new technologies into Wales’ clean energy mix. On behalf of Bechtel, I provided input into this report based on our experience delivering more than 74,000 megawatts of carbon-free nuclear generation capacity to the world.
It is widely accepted that nuclear energy will be a key player in reaching net zero. Nuclear, while not a standalone answer, is critical when it comes to achieving energy security. As energy bills continue to rise and resources dissipate, one must wonder what will it take for Wales to put a plan into place to incorporate the critical, clean energy that it needs?
Potential Developments in Wales
The report indicates that nuclear power is critical to Wales and the UK reaching their decarbonization goals. It also notes that Bechtel-Westinghouse experience at Plant Vogtle in the United States provides “valuable insight into the scale of the project and its feasibility for Wales.”
Units 3 & 4 at Plant Vogtle will be the first new nuclear reactors brought to the U.S. energy grid in over three decades. Westinghouse’s proven AP1000® technology combined with Bechtel’s engineering, procurement and construction expertise will soon result in reliant, clean, and carbon-free energy to communities in the southern United States. The project also provides thousands of jobs during construction and operations, work for local suppliers, and training for highly skilled construction jobs transferable to other carbon-free projects in the region.
Wylfa has long been regarded as the UK’s best site for a large nuclear power station and could also be home to future small modular reactors (SMRs). Bechtel has been reviewing options, including working in partnership with Westinghouse, on a plan to construct AP1000 reactors, leveraging lessons-learned from Plant Vogtle’s Units 3 & 4 in Georgia.
Bechtel, in partnership with Westinghouse, is committed and ready to deliver the same for Wales and the UK at Wylfa. Our proven technology and expertise in the development of every aspect of the nuclear lifecycle are a warranty for net zero success at Wylfa.
The Bechtel-Westinghouse partnership would bring the benefits of clean, reliable energy as well as an increasingly skilled clean energy workforce to Wylfa by 2035. This timeframe includes two years for a front-end engineering design study, four years to go through the development consent order process, and six years for construction.
Our most recent experience at Vogtle has provided a nuclear energy solution that benefits the local community, the country, and the world. Vogtle Units 3 & 4 have provided 9,000 construction jobs to date and will offer more than 800 permanent jobs, making it the largest jobs-producing construction project in the state of Georgia and an economic development driver for the region.
Once built, the two units will provide the equivalent amount of affordable, carbon-free energy that it would take to power all the homes within Wales and more.
The UK needs clean, reliable energy fast. Nuclear power provides a sustainable, carbon-free power source that will provide energy security. Unlike wind and solar, it can substitute directly for fossil fuels without backup or storage. The International Energy Agency believes that global nuclear capacity must double by 2050 to reach net-zero emissions targets.
To do this, the UK must build on the foundational knowledge and experience of its nuclear professionals and continue to innovate. Given the need for a swift solution to the energy crisis, the value of early engagement and collaboration, especially when launching first-of-a-kind capital investments required for the energy transition, cannot be overstated.
Bechtel has been building critical infrastructure in the UK for more than 70 years. Based on our global experience in building complex energy infrastructure projects, there are three critical predictors of project success:
- Early project engagement of the EPC partner, so that supply chain, workforce, training, permitting, and constructability can be addressed and included in project development plans. This ensures our ability to maximize local economic and workforce development benefits, and increases schedule and cost certainty.
- Having a finalized design, as with the AP1000 technology. Knowing exactly what you’re going to build before you start is another benefit of a mature technology and has been demonstrated with the AP1000 reactor.
- Taking a “one-team” mentality as the project is developed and executed so that all project partners and stakeholders align on project goals and prioritize execution. This approach ensures schedule and quality certainty.
Bechtel, in partnership with Westinghouse, is ready to be a reliable partner to deliver carbon-free power to the people of Wales.
We remain actively engaged in the UK market, including opportunities to support new nuclear power projects, such as SMR/AMR development. As a pioneer in the nuclear industry, Bechtel has played key roles in every aspect of the nuclear lifecycle. Combining the information and data collected in the report and lessons learned from our experience working on over 80 percent of the nuclear reactors in the U.S. and over 150 nuclear reactors worldwide, together we can deliver carbon-free energy and economic opportunity to the people of Wales.