NORTH Wales is the preferred site for a major new nuclear power development, the UK Government has announced.

Ministers are starting talks with international energy firms to explore building the UK’s third mega-nuclear power station at the Wylfa site on Anglesey, according to the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ).

The department said the gigawatt nuclear power plant could provide enough clean power for six million homes for 60 years, bringing the UK closer to its target of generating a quarter of all electricity – around 24GW – from homegrown nuclear power by 2050.

The aim is part of the Government’s plan to enhance energy security and deliver on net zero.

The UK generates about 15% of its current electricity needs from about 6.5GW of nuclear capacity.

The Wylfa project could be similar in scale to Hinkley in Somerset and Sizewell in Suffolk, with hopes it would bring thousands of jobs and investment to North Wales.

Labour has accused the Conservative Government of “dither and delay” on new nuclear at Wylfa, after Japanese giant Hitachi pulled out a previous project there in 2019 because of rising costs.

Wylfa’s twin reactor Magnox nuclear power station stopped generating power at the end of 2015 and has been decommissioned.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, in his March Budget, announced a £160 million deal with Hitachi to purchase the Wylfa site in Ynys Mon and the Oldbury site in South Gloucestershire as two possible sites for new nuclear projects.

Energy Security Secretary Claire Coutinho said: “We are powering ahead with the biggest expansion of nuclear energy in 70 years.

“Anglesey has a proud nuclear history and it is only right that, once again, it can play a central role in boosting the UK’s energy security.

“Wylfa would not only bring clean, reliable power to millions of homes – it could create thousands of well-paid jobs and bring investment to the whole of North Wales.”

The UK is working to expand nuclear power through traditional large-scale plants as well as small modular reactors (SMRs), which supporters hope will be quicker and cheaper to construct.

Janet Finch-Saunders MS has welcomed the news as a boost to North Wales.

The Aberconwy MS said: “Having long championed investment in nuclear in North West Wales, I am absolutely delighted that the UK Government is powering ahead with the biggest expansion of nuclear energy in seventy years with our region at its heart.

“For us in Aberconwy, there is no doubt that this investment will bring more high skilled job opportunities for residents.

“I look forward to learning the outcome of UK Government talks with international energy companies”.

Great British Nuclear aims to announce successful bidders for the competition for the selection of SMRs by the end of this year.

But this is later than the timetable the Government set last October, which said it would announce by spring which companies of the six in the running had been chosen.

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said the Government is “absolutely right” to pursue more large-scale nuclear alongside the SMR programme.

“It is proven technology that delivers clean, sovereign power and can transform communities with thousands of high-quality, long-term jobs and apprenticeships.

“Wylfa is the best site in Europe for a big nuclear project: It has an existing grid connection, the hard bedrock ideal for a nuclear power station, superior cooling water access, and some work to clear the site for large-scale construction was already done by the previous developer.

“The community there has a strong nuclear heritage, and there is local interest in a new project. The people of the island deserve clarity and certainty on the project’s future, and so we welcome the Government’s engagement with potential partners internationally. We urge them to move forward at pace and to set out how they will choose a delivery partner and how they will fund a new project as soon as practical.”

Sue Ferns, senior deputy general secretary of Prospect union, said: “Wylfa represents the best site in Europe for a large-scale nuclear power station. With this announcement this has now been recognised by the UK Government.

“Gigawatt-scale new nuclear power stations are vital to hitting net zero and for our energy security. But they also maintain well paid and highly skilled jobs, meaning this project would be a major boost to the Welsh economy.

“Now we need a laser-like focus on delivery of new nuclear to make sure skills and experience are not lost, and costs are reduced as we progress.”

Labour’s shadow energy minister Alan Whitehead said: “We welcome the Government finally moving forward with a nuclear project identified by the last Labour government.

“But this should be the bare minimum – and celebrating a tentative step forward in 2024 on a project that should have been moving in 2010 tells you everything about this tired, snail’s-pace Government.

“It’s been five years since ministers watched as the previous plans for Wylfa fell through. After 14 years it’s high time the people of North Wales had a government they could rely on to deliver.

“Labour will back the building of new nuclear in places like Wylfa, unlocking the transformative potential of investment and jobs the Tories have left dormant.”