Rhun ap Iorwerth and Nuclear Power

Now that he has been selected as Plaid Cymru's candidate for the Ynys Môn by-election, Rhun ap Iorwerth has made a public statement about where he stands on Wylfa B.

I have long held my own opinion on Wylfa and its potential for Anglesey and there was nothing lukewarm about the potential that Wylfa B offers Anglesey in the selection meeting last night or among members of Plaid Cymru on Anglesey.

We are very comfortable with the position taken by many members of the party throughout Wales in their principled stand on nuclear. Even though Labour tries to say we are split we will work to make the Wylfa development if it happens work for the people of Anglesey.

In Plaid Cymru in Anglesey we need to make sure that this happens in the interests of Anglesey, our young people and communities.

Daily Post, 28 June 2013

The first paragraph is tortuously ambiguous. He says he has his "own opinion" of Wylfa, but won't actually say what his position is. He owes it to us to make his position clear: does he support it, or is he opposed to it?

Nor do I know who else is included in the "we" in his second paragraph; but if he means Plaid Cymru members on Môn, he is presenting the same false picture that others have done before him. Bob Parry recently told Taro'r Post that the whole Plaid group on Môn supported Wylfa B. They don't. In 2011 he criticized Jill Evans for speaking at an anti-nuclear conference in Caernarfon saying that her presence would be "misleading". But it was he who was doing the misleading.

Rhun is on the brink of going down the same path. It is worth repeating—and I will repeat it as many times as others in the party say misleading things about it—that Plaid Cymru's opposition nuclear power is not a position taken by just "many" of its members, but by most of its members. It is party policy, decided by our members at our party conference.

The full text of the party's position on nuclear power is here, and it clearly states our:

total opposition to the construction of any new nuclear power stations

And in case anybody tries Elfyn Llwyd's trick of saying that Wylfa B isn't "new", but an extension of what is already there, the very same motion specifically states that Wylfa B would be a "new nuclear power station".


Up until now I have not known where Rhun stood on this issue. My objection to him being allowed to stand or being selected was based on the fact that we could not properly assess his suitability to stand as a Plaid Cymru candidate in such a short time. I had hoped that his first statement would be something much more positive:

I had hoped Rhun would say that he is totally opposed to Wylfa B and will fight to stop it happening.

I had hoped Rhun would say that it is being forced on us by a Westminster government that will not let Wales decide our own energy policy for ourselves.

I had hoped Rhun would say that we in Wales can produce more electricity than we consume from renewable sources, a major part of which are around the coast of Ynys Môn, and that we will create better jobs on the island by developing these than by building a new nuclear power station.

I had hoped Rhun would say to those already working in the nuclear industry who are concerned about their jobs that there will be plenty jobs for decades to come in decommissioning Wylfa A, making it safe and cleaning up its toxic legacy.

I had hoped Rhun would say that the cost of dealing with new and very much more toxic nuclear waste—which would have to be kept on the island indefinitely rather than moved to Sellafield as happens now—will be a millstone round the neck of future generations that Wales as a nation will struggle to afford.

... and I had hoped Rhun would also say that if, and only if, a Westminster government forces Wylfa B onto us despite all our objections, it had damn well better ensure that we at least get something out of it in terms of construction jobs, supply chain opportunities and the skills necessary for the operation of the station once completed.

If he has any political sense at all, Rhun will say all of these things. It is not too late for him to do so. What is wrong with Rhun's statement to the Daily Post is that he makes the last point without making all the other points. He cannot hope to get away with that. He needs to unequivocally express his opposition to nuclear power before he gets to the "if".


Even if Rhun is hesitant to do this for personal reasons, he needs to do it for electoral reasons. Apart from any argument based on principle (and by that I mean both being opposed to nuclear power on principle and the principle of having a Plaid Cymru candidate who supports Plaid Cymru's policy) it is stupid to support a new nuclear power station at Wylfa B when most local people think there are better ways of generating electricity and creating jobs.

A survey carried out by Bangor University in 2010 showed that:

91% thought renewable energy was a good or very good idea. Only 2% didn't.

People put solar power, wave machines and windfarms ahead of nuclear power as a way of producing electricity. Only a minority wanted to see nuclear power developed.

74% wanted energy jobs on the island to be created in the alternative/renewable energy sector. Only 35% wanted them created in the nuclear sector.

Bangor University School of Social Sciences, July/August 2010

Of course there is a need for more high-quality jobs on Môn. No-one disagrees with that. But only an idiot would try to attract votes from a small percentage of people when, by speaking out clearly against nuclear power and in favour of the alternatives to it, he would attract votes from the much larger percentage of people who don't want Wylfa B. Do the maths.


If he fails to oppose nuclear energy Rhun will be in grave danger of throwing this by-election away. This would be bad enough, but there would be much more serious consequences for Plaid Cymru than the loss of one seat, and those consequences will be just as real if we fail to express our opposition yet somehow manage to hold on to it.

We need to face up to the fact that our party has been a laughing stock for years by allowing political commentators and opponents to say that we are opposed to new nuclear power stations everywhere in Wales ... except in Môn! That now needs to change.

If we're afraid to look at our own face in the mirror, then we should look and learn from what has just happened to Leighton Andrews. We have rightly criticized him for trying to make his local patch an exception to the policies of his own party. Do we think that the same won't apply every bit as much to us if Rhun tries to do the same in Ynys Môn? Mae'n cymryd aderyn glan i ganu.

What is at stake here is Plaid Cymru as a credible and electable national party. We need to be consistent. We cannot say one thing to one small part of Wales while saying something else to the rest of the nation. The rest of the nation will laugh at us; people who laugh at us will not vote for us; and unless we can win votes all across Wales we will never move our nation forward.

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Anonymous said...

Since no AM (or even Welsh MP) has any real way of stopping any power station like this being dumped in Wales then surely all he can do is ensure we get the best out of it that we possibly can?

Jac o' the North, said...

Wylfa B is a test for Plaid Cymru in more ways than one. First it needs to present a coherent party response to nuclear energy. But as Wales has no authority over the project whether Plaid is united or not is irrelevant to whether the project goes ahead.

So the real test will be for Plaid to do its best to ensure that the Wylfa jobs go to Welsh people (and not just those living on Anglesey) and the contracts to Welsh firms (ditto).

Cai Larsen said...

The position you refer to here is virtually identical to the one Heledd took in Golwg last week & the one used successfuly in the recent council elections.

Beard said...

Did Rhun run over your dog or something?

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree that there would be more votes won than lost by presenting the arguments outlined above. This would link a strong nationalist narrative with what a lot of people actually feel on the ground on this issue, and that type of opportunity doesn't crop up very often for the national movement.

Is it too much to hope for that a potential nationalist AM will point out that this development is all about meeting the electricity needs of England??? And what about the much bigger elephant in the room- that the costs involved with dealing with the waste from any Wylfa B for generations to come, could conceivably bankrupt any potential independent Wales that might come into being over the next few years? With PC hoping for support from members all over Wales for this by-election, surely that in itself presupposes that it has a "national" context- and therefore we must have a coherent "national" message , not just a message to suit the peculiar circumstances of Ynys Mon.

However, judging from Rhun's comments at the hustings on Thursday night, where he talked about steering a middle way between outright support and outright opposition I think we can expect a continuation of the IWJ school of pragmatism on this matter. But, if pragmatism is sadly to be the order of the day once again, please can we find a way to stiffen up this pragmatism with a narrative that is less cowed by the Daily Post and Welsh Labour's "6,000 jobs" nonsense, and which delivers a stronger nationalist message?

I think Rhun ap Iorwerth could neutralize a lot of Labour's arguments about Wylfa B by calling for all energy powers to be devolved to Wales forthwith, and challenging Labour to oppose that. That would be a way to acknowledge, at long last, that this whole issue is more than just about the parochial interests of Ynys Mon: it is a matter for the whole of Wales. We as a nation need to have a wide ranging discussion about the type of energy mix we need for our needs for the years to come. I would imagine that an all-Wales debate would show a clear preference for alternative sources of energy production.

He could further state that any Wylfa B is unlikely to be producing electricity until 2030, so it is just common sense for Wales to concentrate on developing alternative sources of energy e.g tidal, lagoons, solar during that intervening period. This can only happen if all energy powers are devolved.

He could also quite legitimately raise the issue of trust with this development and encourage a sense of healthy scepticism amongst the voters. Over the past few years, voters have lost a huge amount of trust in politicians, the police, the media, the church.

Can we really trust the promises of the nuclear industry and their lobby in view of all that we have learnt about the way that so many of our institutions have systematically lied to the public for so many years?

Furthermore, aren't the public, even on Ynys Mon, now desperate for truthfulness, honesty and openness from those who seek to represent us in future? People are crying out for a more participative rather than a representative style of politics. Such a participative approach could well pay dividends for Rh ap Ior on Ynys Mon.

Unknown said...

Wylfa B is a check for Plaid Cymru in more ways than one. First it desires to present a coherent party response to atomic power. But as Wales has no administration over the task if Plaid is joined or not is irrelevant to whether the task proceeds ahead.

Tahitian Noni Juice

Anonymous said...

So, you disagree with the work "we" and we get a blog post. Can we expect you to be this pedantic for the whole campaign?

Energy is NOT DEVOLVED. If you want to attack someone on his Wylfa policy, at least attack the correct person - Albert Owen MP.

I suspect the Lib Dems and the Greens will be unequivocally against Wylfa B in this by-election. I expect both to loose their deposit.

aledgwyn - I thought (in the hustings) that Rhun did call for energy to be devolved?? In any case, he was so strong on Independence, devolution of Energy is implied. I also agree that the Nationalist argument against Wylfa B is the strongest one.

glynbeddau said...

Are People seriously arguing that Plaid should not have a policy on Wylfa B because "its not a devolved one"?

Plaid should be saying what a Indepemdent Wales should look kike at the moment an Independent Wales will have to live with a Wylfa Nuclear Power Plant even if we don't want it.

So why not put the case against now Arguing that more jobs could be loss if the plant is built as it will deter other s from coming to the island.

Plaid and other parties should be arguing that a Green Môn will provide more work for Islanders in the long run and jobs for locals in particular.

Anonymous said...

Glynbeddau. I'm suggesting that attitude to Wylfa is not the most important issue when selecting a AM.

I'm not happy about MH's attacks on Rhun over thing he has not said. Please MH, use our energy (wind powered!?) over the next month attacking Labour.

Hogyn o Rachub said...

"If he fails to oppose nuclear energy Rhun will be in grave danger of throwing this by-election away"

Erm, I think you'll find that undermining him - as you seem to be trying to do (and even if you're not trying to do that, you are managing to) - will very much more harm Plaid Cymru's chances of retaining the seat than anything else.

Rhun Ap should have the full support of anyone who doesn't want to see Labour gaining a majority in the Assembly or Plaid Cymru losing a seat. You're really not helping, you know.

MH said...

Thanks for the comments. I think Glyn has already made the response that I would have given to Stu (WnB), Royston (Jac) and Ioan. We cannot sit on the fence over any issue because it is not devolved.


I value what Cai says (as always). In this post I have tried to strike the right balance between opposition to nuclear power and ensuring that if it is forced on us, local people get to benefit from it, rather than people who move in from outside the area.

I didn't read Heledd's article for Golwg, and don't know the details of the election campaign for the Council. But if it is similar to what I have outlined in this post, it should act as powerful evidence that the approach of unequivocal opposition to Wylfa B, but fighting to get something out of the project if it goes ahead, is going to be successful in electoral terms.


To Beard and Ioan, I am not attacking Rhun. So far (in the last post and now this one) the only criticisms I have made of Rhun are presumptuousness and not doing enough to tell us where he stands on the issues.

On the scale of things, presumptuousness is not an especially bad thing. Rhun is clearly ambitious and if he simply put himself forward as a candidate he hasn't done much wrong. It would be very different if he was involved in arranging what happened. My major criticism is directed at the National Executive for allowing him to stand and at Ieuan for immediately changing his mind about when he would stand down, forcing members on Môn to make an instant decision without having enough time to properly consider the merits of the potential candidates.

Rhun could have done a lot more to tell us where he stands on the issues. That information will now probably come out in dribs and drabs. Depending on what comes out, we will find out whether it was a good or bad thing to select him.

Nor am I undermining him, as HoR suggests. In this post I am doing my best to show Rhun that he will attract more votes in this by-election by expressing his opposition to Wylfa B, rather than only saying he will fight to get the best out of it if it is forced on us by a Westminster government. How can attracting more votes than we would otherwise get be a bad thing? We will need these additional votes if we want to win Ynys Môn at the Westminster election in 2015.

But on top of that, I am trying to get people in Plaid to look beyond just holding on to what should be a safe seat at Assembly level. My message is that by showing we have a unified and coherent position on this issue, we are more likely to win new seats in other parts of Wales in future elections. Our aim should not be limited to preventing Labour from getting a majority in this Assembly, it should be for Plaid Cymru to lead the next Welsh Government.


To Aled, I like what you've said both here and in response to this article in Golwg360. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Not attacking????
"If he has any political sense at all, Rhun..."
"What is wrong with Rhun's statement..."
"But only an idiot would try to attract votes from..."
"My objection to him being allowed to stand..."
You are undermining him.

Cai Larsen said...

Look - this is essentially simple - viewing things from this side of the country anyway.

Labour have little chance of winning the election in ordinary circimstances. However if they manage to turn the election into a referendum on WylfaB they give themselves a chance as a lot of people on the island support the power station.

It therefore follows that Plaid need to prevent the whole thing becoming a nuclear power referendum. The position taken by Plaid in the council elections & in this election does just that.

Going into an election with an electoral stratergy of plonking yourself on the very ground your main opponents are praying you'll fight the election from just isn't smart electoral strategy.

That's why making a mountain out of a power station in these particular circimstances is just not helpful.

MH said...

Look carefully at what I've said, Ioan. I haven't called Rhun an idiot or said that he doesn't have any political sense. I very much hope he'll show us that neither is true.

Cai, I really don't understand what you're saying. In your last comment on my previous post you said that Rhun's position on Wylfa B was more or less identical to that of Heledd and Ann. Heledd is opposed to nuclear power, as she said here. In your first comment on this post you seem to be saying that it was the position I've set out here that proved to be successful with the electorate in the Council elections a few weeks ago. If so, it was very successful. We got 34.3% of the equalized vote as opposed to Labour's 17.8%, and we won 12 seats as opposed to Labour's 3. So what on earth is the problem? Rhun simply has to express both his opposition to Wylfa B and that he will fight to ensure that local people get something out of it if it goes ahead.

I hesitate to say this, but I think I am one of the people in Plaid who has spoken out most consistently against Wylfa B. From that position I think I can safely say that if Rhun does both these things rather than just one of them, he will satisfy virtually everybody in the party. An issue that has made Plaid a laughing stock in the past will at last have been resolved.

Democratic Nationalist said...

Mae ynni gwynt a heuluol yn ddiddefnyddiol a nid dyn nhw'n creu swyddi o'r gwbl, yr hyn y gallen nhw ddefnyddio yn lle yw ynni dŵr, glo a daearthermol.

MH said...

I agree, Democratic Nationalist. These windfarms just appear by magic from nowhere, so no-one needs to be employed to build them. And they are completely maintenance free, so no-one needs to be employed to maintain them.

But meanwhile, if you ever want a glimpse of the real world, I suggest you read this comment.

And as for their usefulness, the Rhiannon windfarm will produce more energy than Wylfa A did, as you'd know if you'd read this.

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