Charles Hendry, the UK Government’s Energy Minister displayed rather more confidence in the prospects for Wylfa B than any publicly available facts can justify during his visit to Ynys Môn yesterday. The statement from the opposition group, PAWB, that the project is ‘dead in the water’ looks like an understatement, if anything, to me – it never got as far as the water before dying.
The companies behind the project have abandoned it and put the consortium up for sale, and a number of other countries are busily abandoning their nuclear energy programmes, yet the UK government seems determined to continue to swim against the tide.
It’s possible, of course, that Hendry already knows something we don’t. Perhaps there is another company, or companies, which really are ready to take over the scheme and build a new station. Two things seem clear however if that is the case.
The first is that the only companies likely to be interested are those owned by the Russian or Chinese states, and the second is that “The Government’s plans to reform the electricity market and how far these offer subsidies to the nuclear industry” will be a key consideration. Whether they’re actually called subsidies and how open and transparent they are is open to doubt – but new nuclear power stations will not be built in the UK without a massive financial commitment from the state.
If, on the other hand, he has no insider knowledge on which to base his optimism for the project, then he is simply misleading those to whom he is speaking. Worse than that however is that for as long as politicians like Hendry continue with their unwavering commitment to nuclear energy, the greener alternatives do not receive the same level of backing.