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Concerns over seabirds cause delay to Welsh nuclear power station

The construction of a proposed nuclear power plant on the Welsh island of Anglesey has been delayed so that the impact of the project on protected species of seabirds can be assessed. Conservation groups have raised concerns over the Wylfa project which had been given the green light by the UK’s nuclear regulator in December.

Huge Power Plant

The proposed plant would have a capacity of 3GW, similar to the 3.2GW of the nuclear power station currently being built at Hinkley Point in Somerset. The capacity was originally planned to be 2.7GW but the potential of the power station has been increased due to the development of more efficient wind turbines.

Horizon Nuclear Power, a subsidiary of Hitachi, had told the planning authorities that it would submit its planning application for the Wylfa plant by the end of March. But the submission has been postponed because the impact on sandwich, Arctic and common terns must be researched. These species are protected under the EU birds and habitats directive.

Neighbouring the Cemlyn Nature Reserve

The Cemlyn nature reserve is close to the sight of the proposed power station and this is home to 20% of the UK population of sandwich terns. Wildlife groups have expressed concerns 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 during the construction and moving forward. There are further potential ecological impacts including the displacement of predators such as rats and foxes.

Breeding Seabirds

Horizon is conducting talks 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. The birds are fickle breeders and so it is imperative that they are not disturbed. The company hopes to resolve any issues quickly and to submit the development consent order (DCO) before the end of June.

Funding Issues

Horizon is less than three months away from the self-imposed deadline beyond which it will not commit any more funding without a financial support package being provided by the government. The company has already spent £2bn on the project and is currently spending more than £1m per day! This situation is unsustainable and so it is likely that every effort will be made to address the impacts on wildlife quickly.

Conservationists will be hoping that the power station is never built but it is likely that it will be – eventually. Horizon are planning to be generating power in the 2020s and the Anglesey power station could deliver a significant proportion of the UK’s electricity when completed. Hopefully not at the expense of the endangered seabirds living right next door! Only time will tell.


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