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Opinion

The announcement of Wylfa as the favoured site for a new nuclear plant is nothing more than blatant electioneering

27 May 2024 6 minute read
Wylfa on Anglsey. Picture by Reading Tom (CC BY 2.0)

Dylan Morgan, People Against Wylfa B (Pawb)

The morning of May 22 certainly had a feeling of April Fool’s Day about it with the announcement by the energy minister, Claire Coutihno that Wylfa is in the government’s view, a favoured site for building large nuclear reactors.

In case you haven’t been following the planned renaissance of nuclear power in the British State over the past 20 years, Wylfa was included by Tony Blair’s government as one of eight possible new build nuclear sites in 2006.

It is well documented how the German consortium of REW and E.ON set up Horizon Nuclear Power in 2007 with a view to build new reactors at Wylfa.

Fukushima

Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 and how that strengthened already strong anti-nuclear views in Germany, the consortium were lucky some months after announcing they would not proceed with Wylfa B in March 2012, to sell Horizon at a profit for £750 million to Hitachi in October 2012.

Hitachi then spent another £1.25 billion on the Wylfa B project until January 2019, before deciding to suspend any more investment.

The project was finally scrapped completely in September 2020.

So Wylfa has been in the government plans for the past 20 years. To pretend that this was somehow a new step was nonsense.

It was nothing more than blatant electioneering on behalf of Virginia Crosbie in her attempt to keep Ynys Môn in the Conservative fold.

Planning Inspectorate

Under Hitachi’s ownership, Horizon presented a full planning application for new nuclear reactors at Wylfa to the Planning Inspectorate who are responsible for evaluating all major infrastructure planning applications.

Independent inspectors were appointed to scrutinise the proposals at public sessions in October 2018 and early spring 2019 and in private group discussions among the inspectors.

Their final report was not published until Hitachi had announced a suspension of investment in the project. Their conclusions were striking to say the least.

“Expert planning officers felt that the proposals failed to meet some of the United Nations’ biological diversity standards and also listed concerns over the project’s impact on the local economy, housing stock and the Welsh language.

“The planning inspectors’ report said there was a lack of scientific evidence put forward by developers to demonstrate that the Arctic and Sandwich tern (seabird) populations around the Cemlyn Bay area would not be disturbed by construction.

There were fears that these birds would abandon the Bay as a result. It also raised wider concerns over the general impact on Cemlyn Bay, the Cae Gwyn site of special scientific interest and Tre’r Gof…

“… it found the influx up to 7500 workers during construction “could even with the proposed mitigation, adversely affect tourism, the local economy, health and wellbeing and Welsh language and culture”.

“It concluded: “Having regard to all the matters referred in this report, the ExA’s conclusion is that, on balance, the matters weighing against the proposed development outweigh the matters weighing in favour of it. The ExA therefore finds the case for development is not made and it recommends accordingly.”

‘Drop in the ocean’

It was reported in Jeremy Hunt’s final budget this spring that the government were going to pay Hitachi £160 million for the Horizon sites at Wylfa and Olbury, a loss of around £600 million for Hitachi.

Even if this payment is made, it is still only a drop in the ocean in the wider context of the cost of nuclear power stations.

When construction started on the only new nuclear project in England at Hinkley Point C in Somerset in 2015 led by the French nuclear developer EdF, the original cost estimate was £18 billion.

That sum has now rocketed to £46 billion with 2031 as the nearest possible completion date. EdF then want to turn their attention to Sizewell C to replicate the work carried out at Hinkley.

If the Hinkley project is completed by sometime in the 2030’s and work is started on Sizewell, that follow-up nuclear build would take another 15 to 20 years taking us to around 2050.

Nuclear skills

Nuclear industry insiders have publicly admitted that the British State only has enough nuclear skills to build one nuclear development in a given period. Indeed, Simon Bowen, the Chairman of Great British Nuclear stated clearly in that body’s blog on 9 September, 2023 that there is a “lack of skills to meet the coming nuclear challenge”.

In another interview on January 29, 2024 to World Nuclear News he underlines what we have always argued, that the civil and military nuclear sectors are intrinsically linked:“…unless we share skills and we find mechanisms for sharing skills across the nuclear sector, both in defence and civil and across the boundaries, then it is going to be very, very difficult to succeed”

Nuclear power is dangerous, dirty, outdated, a huge threat to environmental and human health as the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters have shown, and extortionately expensive.

It goes totally against the flow of smart money investment in electricity generating projects world wide.

Net loss

The International Energy Agency Annual Report for 2023 published early this year showed another net loss of nuclear power generation leaving it with a 9.2% share of electricity generation worldwide.

For the same year, electricity from the various renewable technologies had increased to 30.2% of the global market. That figure is anticipated to increase to 42% by 2028.

That is just four years away and is a remarkable figure. At that rate of growth, within another decade, renewables can realistically expect to supply over 50% of global electricity.

The world is waking up despite the big oil and nuclear corporations desperately trying to hang on and be relevant.

Future generations will not forgive us if we plough huge amounts of money as taxpayers and through a nuclear tax on our electricity bills into new nuclear reactors in the next twenty years, thereby adding to the huge headache of the legacy radioactive waste of the past 60 to 70 years stored at the decaying Sellafield complex.

All hot radioactive waste produced from high burn up uranium which will be used at Hinkley Point and any other possible new nuclear reactors, will have to be stored on site for at least 150 years.

These are the brutal facts of nuclear power and politicians from all parties contesting the General Election should be challenged, especially if they blindly support nuclear technology which is limping towards irrelevance and oblivion.


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Beau Brummie
Beau Brummie
16 days ago

There are just so many questions.

Wales is already more than self sufficient in electricity, certainly in N Wales. So where is all this surplus power going to go?

Will it be exported to Ireland, to keep the data farms ticking over, for social media and other purposes?

Surely we are not sacrificing our environment and taxes to keep the kittens and selfie crazes going??

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
16 days ago

This is another false bung to save Virginia but they are wasting their time. Even if nobody stood against her and the Ynys Mon ballot paper said in or out, she’d be voted out.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
16 days ago

Lots of money gets spent but little to show for it, a river in the desert…

An audit to see how far down the money sinks through the layers of Bow Ties and Suits…

The professional classes are self serving and self generating…

Ianto
Ianto
16 days ago

Any project that proposes moving in 20,000+ people (7,000 workers and their families) would destroy the area and its infrastructure while doing nothing to allay local unemployment.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
13 days ago

Of course it’s electioneering. I can remember the 2015 Tory manifesto pledge of rail electrification between Cardiff & Swansea that was countersigned by the Beavis & Butt-head of Welsh politics , Andrew RT Davies & Alun Cairns, only to be scrapped once the Tories won the general election. What about the rail electrification in the North. Do we seriously think over a billion plus, could be more, will be spent there when it was too costly in the South. Wake up! And where’s the M4 relief road promised by that lump of lard Boris Johnson? I’ll answer. Nowhere. It’s been… Read more »

Last edited 13 days ago by Y Cymro

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