Sunday, 22 April 2012

Wylfagrad B, Leanne Wood, and Political Cowardice.

I'm puzzled. Almost a month has now passed since the German owners of Horizon announced they had decided to pull the plug on Wylfa B — yet Plaid Cymru's new leader Leanne Wood has not uttered a single word about nuclear energy since. This is strange because arguably one of the central planks of her leadership campaign was her outright opposition to ANY Nuclear energy in Wales, including a new plant at Wylfa. Indeed, immediately after she won the leadership contest in mid March she said this to the Daily Post:

“Plaid Cymru’s stated position is in opposition to a new nuclear power station in Wales. That isn’t to say jobs in North Wales isn’t of vital importance. I have put forward an alternative jobs plan for the North West and for Ynys Môn, those jobs are in the renewable energy sector so we can build a clean, green industry that doesn’t risk our future.”

You would therefore assume that when RWE and E.On made their announcement just two weeks later Leanne Wood would have welcomed their decision and reaffirmed her commitment to a nuclear-free Wales. You might even expect her to have redoubled her efforts to promote the "alternative jobs plan for the North West and for Ynys Môn" she mentioned above — essentially to set up a massive Quango on Ynys Môn called the "Energy Department for Wales" funded by the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency.

Instead we have heard absolutely nothing from her whatsoever on the topic. Why not? Apparently anti-nuclear posturing is fine and dandy until what she said she wanted actually happens and thousands of jobs are suddenly put in danger. It looks more and more to me like political cowardice which doesn't bode well for the rest of her term as Plaid leader.


Should we be concerned with reports that Rosatom, the Russian state-owned nuclear energy corporation, is interested in buying up Horizon and progressing with Wylfagrad B? Probably yes, but not for the "Chernobyl" scaremongering by people like PAWB. The disaster at Chernobyl was caused by unauthorised experiments carried out by the operators to see just how far they could push the reactor without causing a meltdown, involving the disabling of several failsafe mechanisms which would normally have prevented it. The consequences were horrifying, but it is fantasy to think that the involvement of Rosatom at Wylfa could lead to anything similar happening here. Should Rosatom be given the go ahead they will have to use the exact same designs developed by the Germans, and make the exact same choice between either the Areva or Westinghouse reactors — essentially the only thing the Russians will be supplying is the funding.

The more pertinent question regarding Russian involvement at Wylfa is whether the UK really wants a country which has used energy supply as a diplomatic weapon in the past obtaining a foothold in our own energy market?

For what it is worth I suspect that there are many more runners and riders in the race to buy Horizon and that the Russians are just the most vocal.