Britain plays down media report of Hitachi nuclear deal

LONDON/TOKYO (Reuters) - Britain’s government on Wednesday played down a media report that it will guarantee Hitachi Ltd’s Horizon Nuclear Power loans for the construction of two reactors in Wales.

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British Prime Minister Theresa May met Hitachi Chairman Hiroaki Nakanishi last week in London and asked him to go ahead with the project, conveying the government’s intention to fully guarantee the loans, Japan’s Mainichi newspaper paper said, without citing a source.

“We don’t recognise these reports,” a spokesman for Britain’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said in an emailed statement.

“Nuclear power remains a crucial part of the UK’s energy future but we have always been clear that this must be delivered at the right price for consumers and taxpayers,” he said.

Britain is seeking new ways to fund nuclear projects after criticism over a deal awarded to France’s EDF to build the first nuclear plant in Britain for 20 years, which could cost consumers 30 billion pounds.

“These discussions are commercially sensitive and we have no further details at this time,” the BEIS spokesman said.

Hitachi’s Horizon plans to construct at least 5.4 gigawatts of new nuclear capacity at two sites in Britain – the first at Wylfa Newydd in Wales, and a second at Oldbury-on-Severn in England.

Horizon said the two projects could generate enough electricity to power 10 million homes and create tens of thousands of jobs.

“There are regular and ongoing discussions between ourselves and the UK Government on the project but we will not comment on the specifics in terms of the participants in, or content of the conversations,” a spokesman for Horizon said.

The Mainichi report said Hitachi is still pushing for the British government to take a stake in the project and guarantee electricity prices to ensure it is profitable.

The cost of the Hitachi project in Wales has ballooned to 3 trillion yen (20.2 billion pounds) due to tougher safety measures, the newspaper said. Hitachi declined to comment, when contacted by Reuters.

Reporting by Susanna Twidale, Yoshiyasu Shida and Osamu Tsukimori; Writing by Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Alexandra Hudson