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Rolls Royce nuclear plant in Cardiff ‘will stoke new Cold War with China’

13 Mar 2024 5 minute read
Photo Jonathan Weiss

Martin Shipton

Peace campaigners have spoken out against public sector support for a new Rolls Royce office in Wales they say will increase tensions between the West and China.

The office is linked to the building of a new fleet of attack nuclear-powered submarines for the Australian military, as part of AUKUS, a military partnership between Australia, the UK and the US, aimed at containing China.

Campaigners are calling for an urgent public debate on ending Welsh involvement in AUKUS.

Adam Johannes, joint secretary of Cardiff Stop the War Coalition, said: “Welsh media and politicians have been entirely uncritical about Rolls Royce Submarines coming to Cardiff, framing it as job creation, rather than what it is, locking Wales into manufacturing military hardware for a new Cold War with China, fuelling a new arms race, and escalating military tensions that could end in catastrophic war.

“For over two decades, the Welsh Government has immorally built links between Wales and arms industries, whose products have already been used in the Saudi war on Yemen, Israel’s genocide of Palestinians, and in other human rights abuses. Now they support locking Wales into future wars.

“We stand with the Australian peace, anti-austerity, trade union and student groups protesting the $368bn price tag for these new nuclear submarines, arguing the money would be better spent on ending the cost-of-living crisis.”


Former Plaid Cymru MS Bethan Sayed said: “The public must reject the warmongering of the UK and Welsh governments, Cardiff council leader Huw Thomas, Cllr Russell Goodway [Cardiff council’s cabinet member for investment and development] , local MPs Jo Stevens and Stephen Doughty, and some Welsh universities and colleges in supporting involving Cardiff in the building of nuclear-powered submarines”

“Instead of arms industries to take life, our city should seek to attract investment in green industries to save our planet. We should be building cultural, scientific, and educational exchange between nations, not ratcheting up military tensions. Cardiff and Wales should avoid involvement in any shape or form in AUKUS, which is a threat to world peace.”

AUKUS was signed in 2021. It commits the US and Britain to equip Australia with a conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine fleet. Campaigners fear that this will contribute to growing tensions between the West and China that could end in military confrontation.

With funding from the UK Government, Rolls Royce Submarines intend to establish an office at Paramount Business Park in St Mellons, to the east of Cardiff, with 130 highly skilled jobs promised linked to submarine manufacture.

St Mellons

Rolls Royce has also identified the planned new Cardiff Parkway mainline train station and integrated business park at St Mellons as a possible location for a major UK hub for its involvement in AUKUS, subject to Welsh Government approval of the site. Campaigners are calling for Welsh politicians to oppose any AUKUS linked projects.

A Cardiff Stop the War Coalition student organiser condemned partnerships between Welsh universities and Rolls-Royce, saying: “The logic of AUKUS is a deadly new arms race where China will invest in ever more expensive military hardware in response. This, in turn, runs the risk of direct big power military confrontation, which would be catastrophic for humanity.

“This huge military build-up by the US and its allies in the Asia-Pacific region is rooted in US fears of being overtaken by China as the world’s leading economy. Wales should be pressuring world leaders to de-escalate, not escalate global tensions: A new Cold War is not in the interests of ordinary people in Wales, Britain, Australia, the United States or China.”


In a letter to Welsh Conservative Senedd group leader Andrew RT Davies, Economy Minister Vaughan Gething confirmed that the Welsh Government was fully supporting Rolls Royce’s plans, stating: “My officials have been in contact with Rolls Royce to seek further detail and identify any support that might help their plans come forward.”

Cllr Russell Goodway said Cardiff council fully backed bringing nuclear submarine manufacture to Cardiff, and revealed Rolls Royce had already established partnerships with Welsh universities and colleges, saying: “I was delighted to be able to meet the Rolls Royce team at an early stage in their decision-making process and offer them the full support of the council in establishing their office in St Mellons … creating a tremendous boost to innovation and research amongst universities and colleges across Wales and I understand some of these innovation partnerships have already been established.”

The signing of AUKUS marked a sharp shift of Australian foreign policy towards closer alignment with a more aggressive US position on China. The pact entails Australia boosting its weapons capabilities, including developing nuclear-powered submarines. An article in the Financial Times stated: “The biggest benefit of nuclear-powered submarines is that they can stay submerged and remain stealthier for much longer.

“Conventionally powered vessels do not have the same range without exposing themselves to detection by coming to the surface. Nuclear-powered submarines can carry enough fuel for up to 30 years of operation and only need to return to port for maintenance and supplies.”

In 2023 Australia saw a number of high profile protests against AUKUS and the nuclear submarines, including a nationwide day of protest called by the National Union of Students, with Xavier Dupé, an officer of the Australian NUS, criticising the Australian government for rejecting “calls to freeze rents, raise welfare payments above the poverty line or build adequate public housing.

“Instead, it’s spending $368bn on nuclear-powered submarines. Our own universities are developing nuclear programmes and weapons partnerships with major arms manufacturers.”

Meanwhile trade unions and anti-war protesters marched in Port Kembla, Australia to protest against the establishment of a nuclear submarine base for AUKUS arguing it could deter bringing new renewable energy industries to the town.

We invited Rolls Royce to comment, but the company did not provide us with a statement.

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28 days ago

Rolls Royce choosing Cardiff as a base is great news and if we want to see an improved Welsh economy, we need more of this investment, not less.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
28 days ago
Reply to  Joe

Though I have grave reservations about Johannes’ motivations, and I detest his politics, I don’t think it serves Wales’ or Cardiff’s interests to have investment in military technology. This is especially the case when investments of similar amounts of money would likely result in far more jobs and the generation of far more added value were those sums invested in green technology or other life enhancing production.

Defence is very much a subject for sovereign, independent countries, and Wales would be no exception, but I don’t ever think that nuclear weapons should, even then, form a part of that.

Last edited 28 days ago by Padi Phillips
David Griffin
David Griffin
27 days ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

The article references nuclear-powered submarines, not nuclear-armed submarines.

27 days ago
Reply to  David Griffin

.. and what do you think they carry by way of armaments – bows and arrows ? Don’t be so bloody naive.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
28 days ago

Speaking of human rights abuses strange there’s no mention from anyone of the genocide being waged against the Uyghur muslims by china’s brutal one party state dictatorship

27 days ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

Now a forgotten ishoo. The easily offended and superficially militant types have moved on to newer topics.

Of course you are dead right. The Chinese are as guilty as anyone, arguably more so, of conducting ethnic cleansing campaigns in plain sight.

Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
27 days ago

The article is correct, in one sense, the last thing the world needs is another arms race. We all know where they eventually lead – millions of our sons and daughters, dead. Humans vowed, via the UN, to stop the crap that happened 80 years ago happening again, we owe it to future generations to prevent it now.

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