Monday, 13 April 2015

Taking a step backwards

It was disappointing, although hardly surprising, to see that Plaid have watered down the party’s opposition to the building of new nuclear power stations in the election manifesto.  I don’t actually know whether Plaid has changed its policy on nuclear energy; I only know that the policy appearing in its General Election manifesto isn’t the one that the party held when I was involved.  Perhaps it has been formally changed with the consent and involvement of the members; perhaps those writing the manifesto have simply decided to ignore the formal policy in favour of a rather more honest statement of the party’s position.  But “We continue to oppose the building of nuclear power plants in new locations” is a step back from opposition to any new nuclear build, which was the party’s formal position until very recently.
It is, of course, more honest than claiming to oppose something which a number of the party’s candidates and elected members are actually campaigning for (although it’s still not as honest as stating the party’s actual de facto policy on energy, which is that individual elected members and candidates are free to take any stance they like).  Gareth Hughes was rather less than entirely kind to me in his report on the last Plaid conference which I attended in 2010, when he reported that I had suggested that Plaid was in danger of opposing nuclear power stations only on those sites where no-one wanted to build them.  My comment was intended as a criticism, not as a suggestion for future policy; but since, as far as I am aware, no-one is suggesting that any new nuclear power stations should be built in entirely new locations, it now seems to have become formal party policy.
Does it matter?  At one level, then of course, the question of how Wales meets its needs for electricity is a mere question of detail; it’s not a core nationalist issue.  And a party which first and foremost seeks support for independence could probably avoid having definitive policies on a whole range of issues.  (Although there is a question to be answered about its impact on the asset and liability balance sheet if independence is ever achieved.)
But that isn’t the stance which Plaid has taken.  And in an election where it has clearly been attempting to promulgate the message that there’s no need to vote for the Green Party in Wales because Plaid is already filling that slot, the absence of a coherent energy policy makes that claim untenable.  In addition, building a new nuclear station in Wales renders much of the renewable capacity which the party’s manifesto also claims to support irrelevant other than as a means of exporting electricity; it has nothing to do with meeting Wales’ needs.
And the biggest hole of all in the resulting policy is that on nuclear waste.  Nobody supporting the building of new nuclear power stations can, with any honesty or credibility, oppose the siting of the waste storage and treatment facilities which are an inevitable concomitant. 


phil s said...

It is a serious flaw in an otherwise very good manifesto, a nonsensical position. Since the visit to Ynys Môn by Naoto Kan, the Japanese PM at the time of Fukushima, public opinion on and off the island has seen a major swing against Wylfa B. PAWB (People Against Wylfa B) has just founded another branch in Colwyn Bay and its support is soaring. With the Greens not standing in the northwest, opposition to Wylfa B could have been a vote winner.It seems a small pro-nuclear group within Plaid holds the better informed majority in the party as hostages to fortune.

Anonymous said...

Having not looked at the plans for Wylfa B. In detail( l can't pluck up the courage) Am I wrong to asume that it will be built on adjacent fields which are to be compulsary purchased or will the present station be adapted? Of course I am being silly.But it takes two to tango??

Pawb. Conwy Branch. said...

As I have not seen Horizo`s Wylfa B. plans in detail. [I immediately lost interest when waste dump was not shown]!Am I wrong in assuming that the "new" station will be built on adjacent compulsory purchased farm land or will the current station be adapted? and therefore not new?? Yes i am being silly, but not half as silly as "Plaid"are if they think we are going to fall for a cheap shot.Nuclear is far to dangerous to play games with.So Plaid YES or NO? My vote depends on it, Why? because Nuclear is NOT compatible with life on this planet.

Anonymous said...

I don't support Wylfa B or nuclear power and I’m not a Plaid Cymru supporter, but ive worked on Ynys Mon and the issues are more complex than many want to acknowledge.

For those constantly berating the party over Wylfa B, can I ask you answer the following questions and perhaps you might get an idea why they and their representatives hedge their bets?

I don’t expect any changes of mind, but the issue isn’t as black and white as so many make out, in principle nuclear is bad but opposing it without thinking is equally counterproductive.

What environmental damage has been done to Ynys Mon since Wylfa and what impact has it has on the island?

Which leads on to Ynys Mon has some of the lowest annual wages in UK, what jobs could realistically replace those lost at the power plant and it’s suppliers and how soon could they be created without further eroding the communities on the island?

How long would renewable sources take to build and generate the same amount of electricity and would supplies be affected in the meantime?

Has there been any additional investment by the local council, Welsh Assembly Government or UK parliament outlined for Ynys Mon that could start the process of being less dependent on nuclear?

John Dixon said...


The problem with that comment is that it confuses several different issues, including energy policy, employment problems, and political inconsistency. And that makes the issue seem more complex than it is.

Part of the reason for being where we are is that decision-makers have been so wedded to the idea that the solution to the problem of low wages and lack of jobs is a new nuclear power station that they have done little or nothing to progress alternatives, and are then effectively using their own lack of action on those alternatives to justify sticking by their original conviction. And that seems, broadly, to be your conclusion as well. But on that basis, we'll never escape the spiral.

And on the politics of it, there'd be nothing at all dishonest about any party stating that it believed that nuclear energy was the right way forward for Wales. I wouldn't agree, but it would be an honest position. What is dishonest is claiming to be opposed to nuclear energy, and wanting to promote the use of renewables, and then supporting the building of a nuclear power station which will generate enough electricity to meet the entire requirements of Wales. That is simply not a coherent or credible energy policy.

Anonymous said...

one issue that often seems to get overloked in discussions about the proposed wylfa b is the hugely important one of the clean up costs which will arise when the time came for wylfa newydd to be decommissioned? The clean up bill for sellafield is now approaching an enormous 70 billion pounds, so the mind boggles when considering what the clean up bill for wylfa newydd would be in a few decades time?

But what's certain is that should wales be a self governing nation by then the cost of decommissioning wylfa b would bankrupt any welsh government (a chilling fact which makes plaid's backing for wylfa newydd all the more disappointing)