Welsh nuclear stand off: who pays?

IssueAugust - September 2018
News by Phil Steele

In May–June, a delegation from Welsh anti-nuclear group PAWB (People Against Wylfa B) visited Japan (under pro-nuclear PM Shinzo Abe) at the invitation of Friends of the Earth Japan. PAWB has been fighting a 30-year battle against the building of new nuclear reactors on the beautiful coast of Anglesey, North Wales.

After the Fukushima disaster, German owners pulled out of Horizon Nuclear (formed to build nuclear power in the UK) in 2012, and sold it on to Hitachi – so PAWB decided to form links with the anti-nuclear movement in Japan. The group invited former Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan, who was converted to the anti-nuclear cause after the Fukushima disaster, to visit Anglesey in 2015.

This year, visiting Japan, PAWB met Fukushima evacuees, government ministries, bank and insurance officials, the cross-party ‘Zero Nuclear’ group of MPs, and Naoto Kan. They demonstrated and handed in petitions from Japanese campaigners against nuclear exports and visited the ghost towns of Fukushima prefecture.

The PAWB visit coincided with talks between Hitachi CEO Hiroaki Nakanishi and British prime minister Theresa May. For the last two years Hitachi has had cold feet, as renewables become cheaper and nuclear costs soar. The Japanese press began to leak details of what offers were on the table.

It seems that if Hitachi were to stay in at all, they sought guarantees and funding from the Japanese and UK governments, with an estimated £5 billion to come from the British taxpayer. Current estimated cost of building Wylfa B? Up to an eye-watering £20bn.

When the much anticipated statement by Tory energy minister Greg Clark was unveiled at the beginning of June, it was a damp squib, awash with ifs and buts... Negotiations would begin with Hitachi, but no decision had been made.

The project is further delayed, and will be fiercely resisted in both Japan and in Wales. Current politics in Japan and in Britain are fluid and uncertain. For all our sakes, let’s hope Wylfa B is never built.

Topics: Nuclear Power
See more of: Wales