One Wales: One Planet

I was amazed to read this in Dafydd Elis-Thomas's latest newsletter:

“As Plaid Cymru spokesman on Energy and the Environment and Chair of the Assembly's Environment and Sustainability Committee, I consider it to be my role to be a critical friend to the three Energy Ministers in the Welsh Government, and encourage them to be increasingly confident in following the low carbon path Wales and our world so desperately needs. After all, this path was laid down very firmly in 'One Wales One Planet' by the Government that Plaid Cymru Ministers had such a full and active role in."

I would certainly want to echo that call. However I have to wonder if Dafydd has actually read One Wales: One Planet for himself ... for what it says is very much at variance with his ideas, particularly with regard to energy.

The document is in three parts which people can download by clicking the image:


These are some of the things it says on the subject of energy:

Vision: Within the lifetime of a generation we want to see Wales using only its fair share of the earth’s resources

Outcome: We use less energy and are more energy efficient. More of our energy is produced at a community level close to where it is used and we are self-sustaining in renewable energy.

Our aim is to generate annually more than 30TWh of electricity from renewable sources by 2025 and 3TWh of heat, mainly from biomass. Our aim is to produce more electricity from renewables than we consume as a nation within 20 years.

Search high and low for it, but there is absolutely nothing in One Wales: One Planet about nuclear energy ... and why on earth should there be? At present Wales consumes about 20TWh a year of electricity, so if our aim is to produce 30TWh a year from renewable sources by 2025, that will be very much more than we will consume even if we take the electrification of railways and the increasing use of electric vehicles into account.

And how on earth is nuclear compatible with more of our energy being produced at a community level close to where it is used? Nuclear energy is the complete opposite of that.

Poor Dafydd just doesn't know what he's talking about. One Wales: One Planet is a good document. We should be proud that Plaid Cymru had a prominent role in framing it, and it does "lay down very firmly" the path that Wales should take. But if he really believes that, why is he so determined for us to depart from that path and resort to nuclear energy?

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Anonymous said...

Why are people in such awe of clean energy? Nuclear Power brings jobs and prosperity, MH I do not know why you are categorically against it, when we know that the farcical, yes farcical debate about renewable energy in Wales is not going anywhere, renewable energy is not sustainable, what happens when their is no wind, etc etc, we need more nuclear power stations, not less we should build one in pembrokeshire, nuclear power stations have risks, but so is life a risk,

our society is based on capatalism, which is based on the market, driven by winners and losers, their will always be those who end up with less in society, our aim is to make the lives of the wors off the best they possibly can be, by maximising the advantage of the worst off,

nuclear energy, is a winner for some but a loser for others, it may bring with it risks but we have to have big industry to sustain the welsh economy, china wouldnt sustain its industry off a couple of wind farms

we need to be realistic, im not voting for dafydd el but to be against nuclear power is insanity

MH said...

I don't see where the prosperity comes from when we'll have to pay for the mess nuclear power leaves for many centuries to come, Anon. There'll be plenty of jobs in the nuclear industry just making old power stations safe and dealing with the waste. And there'll be many jobs in renewables if we concentrate on that instead of more nuclear power stations.

And don't forget that no nuclear station would get built if it didn't receive public subsidy and if the risks of anything going wrong weren't ultimately borne by the state, because no market insurance could ever cover it. So I don't see what "the market" or "capitalism" has got to do with it, except to rule nuclear out as a commercial proposition.

Finally, as you mention China it might surprise you to know that China invests very heavily in renewables, particularly wind, here. In fact China now has more wind power capacity than any other country, with an amazing 85% growth over the past five years, here.

So who's insane?

Anonymous said...

I would take issue with your contention that nuclear energy is 'clean'.

It is not sustainable either, as there is not an endless supply of nuclear fuel. The cost of uranium is likely to rise as stocks diminish.

A nuclear plant is very expensive to construct, and has a life of about 40 years. It takes decades to decommission costing in the region of about £750 million.

It produces a stockpile of highly radioactive waste. Successive UK governments have failed to find a permanent solution to the waste from the first generation nuclear plants. Currently it is stored in large tanks at Sellafield - a legacy for our great-grandchildren.

On the plus side it might provide some 9,000 temporary jobs for construction workers, and up to 1,000 skilled jobs during the lifetime of the plant. There would be a knock-on economic benefit for shops and businesses. It is almost impossible to estimate how many of the jobs would go to people living in the locality.

Nuclear accidents and incidents are all too common, though there have been only a handful of really serious ones. When the latter happen, then large swathes of land become uninhabitable for hundreds of years. Such an incident on a small highly populated island such as Britain would have horrendous consequences.

Plaid's policy is a wise one. It opposes the construction of any new nuclear plants in Wales. If the UK government goes ahead with a new plant at Wylfa, then Plaid will do its utmost to ensure that as many jobs as possible will go to local people.

Dafydd Elis-Thomas, it appears, favours the construction of at least two new plants, one at Trawsfynydd, the only inland site in the UK, and in the heart of Eryri/Snowdonia. His ideas run counter to the energy policy of his party.

It is one of the reasons (there are several others) that I couldn't countenance voting for him to be leader.

Anonymous said...

Of course, the First Lord is not the Plaid Cymru spokesperson. He is the Plaid Assembly Group spokesperson. Quite a different thing.

Rhys McKenzie said...

You're having a laugh, anon 15:39. "Renewable energy is not sustainable" - it's the very definition! Do you seriously think that in one hundred years' time that the winds will not blow, the tides will not flow and the sun will not shine?

For the record, I am not -as MH is- against building a new power plant at Wylfa. I see nuclear as an important part of the transition to a low-carbon economy, though the aim of being wholly self-reliant in terms of energy is a good one. To ignore the vast capacity for generating energy renewably in Wales, however, is simply ludicrous. We'd be wasting our #1 resource! We live in the windiest part of Europe, our wet climate and hilly topography is well suited to hydroelectric generation and we have an estuary with the second highest tidal range in the world right on our doorstep. The potential for renewable energy generation in Wales is simply massive.

I suspect you are conflating people's concern with wind generation to the entire renewable energy industry, which I suppose is somewhat understandable, given the prominence of the wind issue here in Wales. However, that premise is false; the tide doesn't flow all the time, true, but it is certainly predictable. Offshore wind does not cause the same visual impact as onshore wind. If we are to turn Wales into a low-carbon economy in our lifetime, we are going to need to use a combination of renewable sources. Nuclear too, I suspect.

Ambiorix said...

Anonymous20 17:33 said...
I would take issue with your contention that nuclear energy is 'clean'.

It is not sustainable either, as there is not an endless supply of nuclear fuel. The cost of uranium is likely to rise as stocks diminish.

That shortall is really going to hit in the next decade!

When this shortfall hits the price of uranium is going to go through the stratosphere.

Unknown said...

Just for the record, Nuclear enewrgy generation is by far the safest form of energy generation known to man. Here is table of deaths per TWh for different types of energy

Coal – world average 161 (26% of world energy, 50% of electricity)
Coal – China 278
Coal – USA 15
Oil 36 (36% of world energy)
Natural Gas 4 (21% of world energy)
Biofuel/Biomass 12
Peat 12
Solar (rooftop) 0.44 (less than 0.1% of world energy)
Wind 0.15 (less than 1% of world energy)
Hydro 0.10 (europe death rate, 2.2% of world energy)
Hydro - world including Banqiao) 1.4 (about 2500 TWh/yr and 171,000 Banqiao dead)
Nuclear 0.04 (5.9% of world energy)
source HERE

There are good arguments against the Uranium PWRS we currently have, and are proposed for the future, but safwety is not one of them.

Unknown said...

Another thing that strikes me is that although the figures might look good - 30Tw renewable generation - this is a notional figure based on capacity. The load factor (ie the ACTUAL amount generated) by renewable is sometimes very low - some wind farms it is as low a 16%. And because we can't depend on the wind blowing when we want to boil a kettle, or switch on a light, we need a backup source of energy - gas, coal or nuclear - the base load generators. Of these only gas can be varied, and then only by a certain amount, and it takes time to 'turn up the gas' or 'turn it down' because of the high temperatures involved. SOo our main problem is not generating electricity, but in generating it when we want to use it, and rather than just pile on more and more intermittent sources that cannot be relied on, we need to be able to store energy. The best way to do this is Hydro Electric pump storage, that uses waste electric - usually in the night when nobody is using it - to pump water up a hill, and then when there is a sudden high demand, to let it drain back down the hill, driving turbines on the way. We only have one such facility - at dinorwic, and a wondrous thing it is too (I can recommend a visit, but it is not beyond the bounds of possibility for us to imagine using our uplands, not to build unsightly wind farms which only have a life of 20-30 years, but to build pump storage tanks - that could be hidden underground, with another one in the valley.

Tidal lagoons - which I've mentioned before, and which are not only less intermittent than wind - generating for 22 hours a day, with the down times (slack tides) being predictable years in advance, but they can be easily configured to act as pump storage facilities, so that they can be relied upon to provide electricity when it is needed, not when it feels like it. I'm afraid that a lot of the sustainable energy thinking we see from politicians - and I would even include Leanne in this - has a very 1980s hippy feel about it. Even the sustainable energy centre at Machynlleth needs mains electricity to function.

My mix of radical solution, to sum up, would include tidal impoundments (lagoons), pump storage schemes, and being early adopters of Liquid Fluoride Thorium reactors (LFTRs) when they become available from China or India at the start of the next decade. They could well be available for commissioning even before any PWRs we start building today.

MH said...

I always thought that deaths per TWh calculation was rather contrived, Siônnyn.

But perhaps I should clarify that the 30TWh per year figure for electricity in One Wales: One Planet is not installed capacity, but actual electricity produced after taking into account the load factors for each type of generation. This is much more than enough for our needs in Wales.

Anonymous said...


Regarding deaths per TWh, I don't know on what those figures are based. Great care needs to be taken in banding statistics about, depending on the source.

Deaths directly attributable to the accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima are negligible - the consequential morbidity and mortality rates may be an entirely different matter, and are difficult to quantify by their very nature.

Had British governments had an energy policy down the decades, we wouldn't be left in the situation where nuclear has to be contemplated. But then, that's typical, nothing works well in the UK, mostly things work very badly. Meanwhile the rich get richer and the gap gets wider - that works well for those in power.

Glyndwr said...

"And don't forget that no nuclear station would get built if it didn't receive public subsidy"

For balance, shouldn't you add that this also applies to wind turbines?

MH said...

Yes, Glyndwr, nobody denies that wind and other renewables are subsidized. However I would want to see the ROC tariff for onshore wind reduced, as this is now a well-established technology.

The difference is that the UK government was elected on a platform of wanting nuclear energy only if it required no subsidy. They appear to be breaking that commitment, as this story shows, but doing it in an underhand way.

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