Nuclear shenanigans

IssueApril - May 2021
News by Phil Steele

Desperate attempts are being made to resuscitate the fading nuclear dream in North Wales, where the Welsh Labour government is vying with Tory Virginia Crosbie, MP for Ynys Môn, in repeated bids to save the seemingly-doomed Wylfa B power station project.

Possible ‘white knight to the rescue’ options included an unholy consortium of the financially- and morally-bankrupt Bechtel, Southern Company and Westinghouse.

In January, the application by the site owners, Horizon Nuclear, for a development consent order (DCO) was finally withdrawn. Horizon’s parent company, Hitachi, had failed to reach a financial agreement with the Westminster government, and planned to wind up business.

The planning inspectorate then revealed ‘in the public interest’ that they had already recommended that approval for the site should be withheld on environmental and social impact terms.

A Shearwater and NuScale consortium proposal for combined energy generation from Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) nuclear power, offshore wind energy and hydrogen production was potentially still on the table and there is speculation that Wylfa could become a site for SMRs, already being considered for Trawsfynydd in Snowdonia.

In full knowledge of the planning inspectorate’s negative recommendations, the Welsh government nevertheless declared that they were prepared to invest huge sums in the nuclear supply chain for Sizewell C, and commit themselves to securing a nuclear future for Wylfa B.

So, apart from egg being wiped off faces, why the ongoing obsession with nuclear power?

To maintain the pool of nuclear skills available for nuclear weapons production and the Trident replacement. Sad, but freely admitted.

However, as long as no white knights gallop to the rescue, the nuclear lobby reminds one more of Monty Python’s Black Knight, who keeps on fighting as his limbs are chopped off, one by one.