Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Nuclear is still the wrong answer

The announcement yesterday that the UK government is still determined to press ahead with a programme of building new nuclear power stations was hardly unexpected; but that doesn't make it any more welcome. It was pleasing, though, to see the First Minister reiterating the policy of the One Wales Government in clear and forthright terms.

The UK government, and other supporters of nuclear power, continue to completely gloss over the unresolved issue of waste disposal, to which there is still no solution. And the full costs of the nuclear option remain uncertain.

I understand the views of those who want the jobs which come with a nuclear programme, of course. But I have never believed that we should adopt a 'jobs at any price' attitude. We need jobs in Wales - and Ynys Môn is desperately in need of an economic boost - but we need jobs which contribute to building the sort of future we want to see, not jobs which take us away from that future and repeat the mistakes of the past.

Would we go out of our way to welcome the development of a plant in Wales to treat toxic waste, or to produce GM seeds for instance? Scarcely, I suspect. And once we acknowledge that there are some industries which we don't want to encourage or to host, we are talking about where we draw the line in welcoming the economic benefits of a particular proposal, not whether there is a line or not. It is clear that we are not all in agreement about where the line should be drawn - either between or within parties.

The First Minister made the telling point that a massive investment in a new round of nuclear power plants may well mean a reduction in funds for research and development in the sort of renewable technologies which we all agree that we want to encourage and attract. As in so many things, it seems unlikely that we can have both. And, if we're serious about creating the sort of new economy which the Welsh Government has strongly advocated, and on which I entirely support what they have said, then we need to continue to reject the nuclear option.

(PS. For the benefit of 'Jac Codi Baw' in Golwg, my position is precisely the same whoever uses the jobs argument!).


Draig said...

And while everyone is jumping up and down over Nuclear, we'll slip in a couple of gas-fired power stations. Nobody'll notice. Except the people of Port Talbot. And Milford Haven. And Newport. And...

Red Herrings abound...

John Dixon said...


...and Pembroke. There's one going ahead there too, which, far from not noticing, I have consistently opposed.

I'm not entirely sure what you mean by red herrings either.

I know that there are a number of people who are deeply concerned about the environment who have come to the conclusion that nuclear power is the only option. It's a viewpoint which I respect; I just think that they're wrong. But arguing for an exception to the no-nuclear policy on the basis of localised economic benefit is an entirely different issue.