It’s up to Wales. The rest of us can help
Breaking update, May 3, 2018. FoE Japan and PAWB today issued a FoEJapan-PAWB press release denouncing Hitachi’s Chairman, Hirokai Nakanishi’s visit today with British Prime Minister Theresa May. As we posited in the article below, it is probable that Hitachi will ask not only that the UK government take a direct stake in the Wylfa Newydd nuclear power project in Anglesey, Wales but that Hitachi will indeed seek assurance for a power purchase agreement similar to the ratepayer fleecing granted EdF for the Hinkley C nuclear project in Somerset.
By Linda Pentz Gunter
New nuclear build in the US is pretty much dead. If the two AP1000 reactors under construction by the bankrupt Westinghouse in Georgia are ever completed it will be a miracle — and not of the good kind.
Even in Japan, despite the nuclear promoting ardor of its misguided prime minister, Shinzo Abe, nuclear power is struggling to recover. Nuclear power plants will never be back in any kind of meaningful numbers in a post-Fukushima Japan. But of course one is too many.
That is why Japan’s nuclear corporations — and especially Hitachi and Mitsubishi (Toshiba is still crawling out from under its now offloaded former partner Westinghouse’s bankruptcy,) are busy marketing their nuclear wares overseas. And one of those places is Wales.
As we have seen with Chernobyl and Fukushima, nuclear accidents know no national boundaries. Just because we have effectively ended new nuclear build in the US (although we must still close the 99 dangerous reactors still operating) we are not safe from disaster.
Cutting off the Hitachi tentacle that would build two giant new reactors in Wales combining for as much as 3,000 megawatts, is therefore paramount to all of us who want a nuclear-free world. It is one of the industry’s last life-lines and we must join together to sever it.
And that’s why it’s important that the Welsh anti-nuclear group PAWB — or Pobl Atal Wylfa B / People Against Wylfa B — makes the most effective use of an offer from Friends of the Earth Japan for a speaking tour in Japan. FOE Japan will cover the cost of one activist. However, to make the visit as successful and effective as possible, PAWB has chosen to send three experienced campaigners — Robat Idris, Linda Rogers and Meilyr Tomos — to represent them in meetings with fellow campaigners, politicians, and victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. PAWB will also request a meeting with Hitachi executives.
PAWB hosted a representative of FOE Japan in Wales in November 2017, and former Japan prime minister, Naoto Kan, in February 2015.
Beyond Nuclear created Beyond Nuclear International in part to help bring the global anti-nuclear movement closer together. Although we must continually raise funds for our own work, we are asking you to help make it possible to send the two additional PAWB activists to Japan.
The visit will inform and strengthen the campaign against Hitachi in Wales but will also lend much-needed support and solidarity to the anti-nuclear movement in Japan. And that, in turn, gives strength and hope to other anti-nuclear power struggles around the world.
Here is how you can help. If you are on Facebook, you can donate to Beyond Nuclear via my Facebook fundraiser. All funds will be sent on to PAWB. Or, if you can mail a check or wire money directly to PAWB, please follow the instructions on donating by check to PAWB. A defeat against a nuclear power plant anywhere is a victory for humankind everywhere.
Hitachi aims to build two of its Advanced Boiling Water reactors (older Hitachi-GE BWR designs were the kind that exploded and melted down at Fukushima in Japan) on Anglesey (Môn Tachwedd) at the site of the two closed Wylfa Magnox nuclear power reactors. Ignoring the obvious potential for renewable energy development — which could deliver more electricity and more jobs to the region than Wylfa B and without all the radioactive risks — political leaders have given the plan the green light.
However, Wylfa B is vigorously opposed by locals, as well as environmental and anti-nuclear groups across Wales who on April 16 announced the revival of the dormant Nuclear-Free Wales movement. The coalition plans to organize joint actions not only against Wylfa B but also against plans by Westminster to dump 300,000 tons of radioactive sludge dredged from the proposed Hinkley C reactor site in Somerset onto a marine site a few miles off the coast of Cardiff, the Welsh capital.
Nuclear-Free Wales will also lend support to block a proposed small modular nuclear reactor that could go into the decommissioning Trawsfynydd Magnox reactor site located by a lake in Gwynedd, in the heart of the scenic Snowdonia National Park.
Wylfa — as well as the coastal Hinkley site — has become a sort of beachhead, literally and figuratively, for nuclear power. The French nuclear flagship, the EPR, is mired in delays, cost-overruns and controversy at sites in France, Finland and China. Westinghouse and its AP1000 have sunk under the financial burden of two canceled US reactors in South Carolina and the stagnant and over-budget pace of the two at Vogtle in Georgia.
Hitachi won’t go forward with nuclear power in Wales without substantial support from the UK government. Duncan Hawthorne, head of the Hitachi consortium that aims to build the plant, already told the Financial Times that his group is not willing to keep “burning money.” The May government has handed the French corporation, EDF, a ridiculous subsidy for Hinkley C in the form of a strike price of £92.50 per megawatt hour — more than double what consumers currently pay, the only way nuclear power can remain even vaguely competitive. Hitachi will have every right to demand the same deal for Wylfa B.
But apart from the financial fleecing of ratepayers, there are further atrocities afoot — a fundamental assault on Welsh values and the traditional way of life in a bi-lingual country with an ancient history and language. A fiercely independent spirit has been cruelly shackled by the centralized UK government — and before that the monarchy — for centuries. Few in Wales have forgotten the ruthlessness of the Thatcher government, which literally starved Welsh coal miners out of a more than year-long strike in 1984-85. The imposition of new nuclear plants now targeted at Wales is no different.
At a March 2017 media workshop conducted by Beyond Nuclear at the Green Nuclear-Free Wales conference for activists in Aberystwyth, participants identified the values most deeply woven into the fabric of Welsh identity — landscape, land, nature, family, language, culture and non-conformism. These were consistent with the values cited over and over in countless Welsh polls and focus groups. All of these are under threat by the Wylfa B plan. Preserving the ecology of the Welsh coastline has become a priority, and recently the threat posed by Wylfa B to colonies of protected seabirds has added a welcome delay to Hitachi’s plans.
Any of us who work on anti-nuclear issues understand the odds we face. Lack of resources with which to fuel our campaigns is a common challenge, along with hostile political environments and the power of corporate money to ride roughshod over decent human values, common sense, and what is best for our health and environment.