The war in Ukraine and the rising price of energy has reignited the debate around nuclear energy.
As Germany and Italy have found to their cost, overreliance on Russia for gas has limited the range of sanctions that the European Union can impose on Russia in the short-term.
The demand for self-reliance and “greener” forms of energy has also turned to the focus on sources of renewable energy to address the growing demand.
For the UK Government’s part, efforts are underway to identify potential sites for nuclear energy. It is thought that Wylfa – the site of a former large-scale nuclear power station decommissioned in
2015 – is said to be in the running to host two nuclear reactors with hopes small modular reactors can be deployed at Trawsfynydd.
These ambitious plans are set to form part of the UK energy strategy which envisages doubling the goal of 10GW low-carbon hydrogen and producing up to 50GW of offshore wind energy by 2030.
It is worth noting however that Wylfa is the site of two recently stalled attempts to re-commission the plant. Hitachi finally withdrew from their bid in 2019, with the cost of the project cited as a
major contributory factor. Reports have now emerged that the 2.3-gigawatt producing-plant will cost between £14 and £17bn to build over a period of six years.
This does not take account of an already lengthy regulatory and planning process. There is also the subject of the environmental assessment which helped sink the previous bid.
Indeed, the UK Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, has recently admitted that the cost of the government’s nuclear plans may actually increase energy bills in the short-term.
Given these considerable teething issues, shouldn’t we be evaluating whether increased nuclear energy production in the short and long-term is truly in Wales’ best interests?
A few things to consider is that even the UK Parliament Welsh Affairs Committee in 2021 recognised that Wales is the fifth largest exporter of electricity in the world, “producing 25% of all its’ generated electricity from renewables, but in total generates double the energy it consumes (30.2 TWh to 14.9 TWh)”.
Furthermore, a growing number of countries, noticeably those with similar populations to ourselves are increasingly moving to renewable energy. Costa Rica for instance, has achieved 95% renewable
energy production while Nicaragua is aiming for 90% renewable energy production. Sweden has also ramped up investment in solar, wind and energy storage and hopes to eliminate the use of fossil fuel energy within their borders, altogether.
While it is true that the UK Government has the power to overrule the Welsh Government on the subject of large-scale power plants, and further sources of energy in Wales will need to be explored
in the coming years to keep up with growing demand, we must nevertheless seriously examine the impact that such a far-reaching decision may have on our country, particularly our environment, our economy and our future.
The cost of de-commissioning and storing nuclear waste have been cited as potential obstacles to Welsh independence. It is feared that the cost of de-commissioning nuclear energy alone, could
bankrupt an independent Wales. Now is the time for our leaders and the people of Wales to have a serious conversation about the issue and how it will impact our future.
This is an article written by Maria Pritchard of Yes Milford Haven and published in the Pembrokeshire Herald newspaper on 03.06.2022