UPDATE 1-UK offers loan guarantee to Hitachi for new nuclear plant

Wed Dec 4, 2013 6:45am EST

LONDON Dec 4 (Reuters) - Britain has agreed to provide a loan guarantee to Japan's Hitachi to help it finance a new multi-billion pound nuclear plant in Wales.

The finance ministry on Wednesday said it would offer the guarantee to help Hitachi finance its planned 2,600 megawatt Wylfa nuclear power station in north Wales.

Britain has an ambitious target to replace its ageing nuclear fleet by the middle of the next decade, and Hitachi is one of a handful of firms ready to take on high upfront costs to build new reactors.

The agreement, which is subject to due diligence and ministerial approval, follows a guarantee offer earlier this year to France's EDF for its 16 billion pound ($26.3 billion) Hinkley Point nuclear project in southern England.

"The agreement today shows that, just as we did with Hinkley Point, this government is prepared to give certainty to investors to help them make the financial decisions that are critical for our nation's infrastructure," Britain's deputy finance minister Danny Alexander told reporters on Wednesday.

Hitachi has said the plant will be based on its Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) designs but has not provided estimates for how much it will cost.

Alexander said the project would employ 5,000 staff during construction and create 1,000 permanent jobs.

The government agreed in October on a minimum price, a so-called strike price, with EDF for power generated from Hinkley Point - the first deal by a European government that guarantees future returns for a nuclear plant.

Hitachi's UK nuclear new build venture Horizon also announced on Wednesday that it had signed engineering and technical design contracts to UK firms AMEC, Atkins and Cavendish Nuclear, without disclosing the contract sums.