Hitachi has announced that it will be developing up to six new nuclear plants in the UK after purchasing the Horizon Nuclear Power venture from RWE and E.ON in a deal worth £697 million.

The proposed new nuclear capacity could generate enough electricity to power around 14 million homes over the next 60 years. Hitachi will be moving forward with Horizon Nuclear Power’s initial plan to build a number of new plants at sites in Wylfa on Angelsey, Wales and Oldbury, Gloucestershire.  

Prime Minister, David Cameron, welcomed Hitachi’s announcement, hailing the economic impact of the nuclear announcement, stating: “This is a decades-long, multi-billion pound vote of confidence in the UK that will contribute vital new infrastructure to power our economy. It will support up to 12,000 jobs during construction and thousands more permanent highly skilled roles once the new power plants are operational, as well as stimulating exciting new industrial investments in the UK’s nuclear supply chain. I warmly welcome Hitachi as a major new player in the UK energy sector.”

In addition to the expected 1,000 permanent jobs created by the proposed plants, Hitachi has committed to sourcing 60% of the required supply chain for the projects from within the UK. British companies, Rolls Royce and Babcock International, have both already signed Memorandum of Understandings with the Japanese company.

Speaking to John Humphrys on BBC Radio 4’s Today show, Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, pointed to Hitachi’s news as proof that the upcoming Electricity Market Reform provides long term investment clarity. He said: “International investors looking at our energy policy have a huge amount of confidence in it.”

When challenged by Humprys over the cost of new nuclear, Davey responded: “What would really be expensive for the UK consumer is if we were over-reliant on gas. What’s been pushing up people’s energy bills in recent years has been the increasing price of global gas. We’re having to import far more now as the gas in the North Sea declines in volume and that’s very expensive.”

The Energy Secretary’s comments appear to go against the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) recent pledge that unabated gas will “play an important role in the energy mix well into and beyond 2030…[not] restricted to providing back up to renewables”. It has been widely-reported that George Osborne pushed the energy department into publicly declaring support for gas, pitting the Liberal Democrat-led DECC against the Conservative-led Treasury.

Hitachi predicts that the first of its UK nuclear power plants will be feeding electricity into the grid during the first half of the 2020s. However, recent research by Renewable UK indicates that renewables will overtake nuclear power as the dominant low-carbon generation method in the UK by 2018. The analysis shows that, if the current rate of renewable growth is maintained, one in 10 properties across the UK could be powered by renewable sources.