Overwhelming support for Plaid's nuclear policy

I'm sure most readers of Syniadau will remember the events surrounding the by-election campaign in Ynys Môn a few months ago. For me, one of the key issues in the campaign was Plaid Cymru's policy on nuclear power, and in particular whether Rhun ap Iorwerth was telling the truth about our policy, or whether he misrepresented it by saying that our policy was to develop nuclear power stations on the sites where there are or have been nuclear power stations before.

To be clear, Plaid's policy is one of total opposition to the construction of any new nuclear power stations, including Wylfa B. Our policy makes no distinction between new nuclear power stations on new sites and new nuclear power stations on existing sites. [Click to display/hide].


Although I have always made it clear that people in Plaid Cymru are free to disagree with party policy, it is completely unacceptable for prominent members of the party to misrepresent what party policy is. Rhun ap Iorwerth was telling a blatant lie, but in criticizing him I did not treat him in any way differently from the way I had treated others when they told essentially similar lies about our policy before him. When Elfyn Llwyd did it on Question Time in June 2011, I criticized him for it here. When Bob Parry, leader of the Plaid Cymru group on Ynys Môn, did it in Golwg in October 2011, I criticized him for it here. When Dafydd Elis-Thomas did it in the campaign to be leader of Plaid Cymru on Sharp End in February last year, I criticized him for it here. Nor was I alone in my criticism, for in the video I included in the third post both Leanne Wood and Elin Jones confirmed that what Dafydd Elis-Thomas said about what had been decided by Plaid Cymru at our conference simply wasn't true. Dafydd was telling a blatant lie.

I think it is important that the decisions we make about party policy are upheld. We have a good policy on nuclear power, and we should be proud of it rather than afraid to tell people what it is. This is all the more important when we remember that every single Labour AM in the current Assembly was elected on a manifesto that said nuclear power was unnecessary, but that Labour then ripped-up that manifesto after they had been elected; and that the LibDems have also U-turned on their previous opposition to nuclear power ... although, with rather more integrity than Labour, they at least did it democratically.

This leaves Plaid Cymru as the only party in the Assembly that is unequivocally opposed to nuclear power, therefore we should vigorously defend our position whenever those who oppose our policies seek to misrepresent what they are.


In the debate at the time of the Ynys Môn by-election, some people expressed the view that Plaid's policy of being totally opposed to building any new nuclear power station in Wales, including Wylfa B, was a nominal policy that might exist on paper but didn't exist in reality. This is perfectly understandable, for most people outside the party are bound to take more notice of what prominent politicians say in the media than look at what was actually decided in a democratic way by the party as a whole. Another allegation was that Plaid's policy on nuclear power only represented what a handful of delegates had decided, but didn't represent the opinion of the party as a whole.

I would only repeat the points I made at the time:

Some things therefore need to be said very clearly, because it is obvious that quite a few people need to be firmly reminded about them:

First, that the majority of people in Plaid Cymru are totally opposed to building any new nuclear power stations in Wales, including Wylfa B.

Second, that even though there is a minority in the party who support Wylfa B, most of them are mature enough to acknowledge that our anti-nuclear policy has been put together in a democratic way, and accept it for that reason. Only a small core of recalcitrants have resorted to telling lies about it and misrepresenting it, but as a result of them doing it others have unwittingly repeated those lies.

Third, that anyone in the party who is pro-nuclear is free to try and change party policy, providing they realize that the only way to change the decision is to bring the matter before conference again and make their case there. If their arguments convince a majority, our policy will change. But until or unless that happens, party policy is going to remain firmly anti-nuclear.

Repairing the Damage – Syniadau, 3 August 2013

This makes what happened at our conference last weekend particularly important. Those who disagree with Plaid's total opposition to new nuclear power stations had every opportunity to present their case and persuade us to adopt a different policy. And those who believe that our current policy only represents what a handful of delegates had decided, but not the view of the membership as a whole, could now put their case directly to the membership, since every member of the party is now entitled to come to conference and vote on the motions.

But those who oppose our policy didn't do this. In fact what happened was precisely the opposite. Conference voted—and the vote was overwhelming—in favour of a motion on energy that included this paragraph:

Conference hereby reaffirms its motion passed in 2011 in respect of nuclear energy and renewable energy.

Minutes of Conference, October 2013

This overwhelming vote of support in confirmation of our anti-nuclear policy was very heartening. Once again, Plaid Cymru members have spoken in clear and unambiguous terms.

There is no better way to answer the small handful of recalcitrants within the party who refuse to accept the clear decision of the party membership, and instead tell lies in an attempt to convince people that we decided something different. These liars have, once again, been firmly put in their place.

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kp said...

Here here!

So what actions will be taken against Plaid Cymru AM's and MP's that refuse to tow the party line and persist in hoodwinking the ordinary voting public?

None, I suspect. Because it has always been thus with Plaid Cymru!

Welsh not British said...

For many in Scotland their main reason to vote yes is to ensure that Scotland is nuclear free. Wales is an energy rich nation and we do not need nuclear power, the only way to ensure Wales is able to become nuke free is to be free of London rule.

kp said...

WNB, a couple of months ago Plaid had an opportunity to convince the people of Anglesey that nuclear power wasn't the way forward.

What did it do? Its representative came out in full support of Wylva B and made much of how such a new development represented the future of the island and its workforce.

And no-one, or no-one apart from the owner of this blog batted an eye lid!


MH said...

No action whatsoever should be taken against those who disagree with any of Plaid Cymru's policies, KP. It is perfectly healthy for members of Plaid, or any other party, to express differing ideas about what Plaid's policies should be, and no-one should be discouraged from doing so ... no matter how uncomfortable or embarrassing it might be for some of those in senior positions within the party.

But we should not tolerate anyone in Plaid who tries to hoodwink either the ordinary voting public or others within the party by telling lies about what our policy is. That is a very different matter.

As for me being the only one to bat an eyelid, I can assure you that a number of people in the party were very unhappy. People have written to me to assure me they had no part in some of the NEC's decisions, and one person I know resigned a very senior position within the party in protest over what happened. So don't think everyone in Plaid is prepared to put up with behaviour like this. Maybe there are not yet enough in senior positions to change things but, as the vote at conference shows, the will of the party as a whole on this matter is absolutely clear. That is the point of this post.


I agree, Stu. It wasn't so long ago that every party in Wales, even the Tories, recognized that we could produce more electricity than Wales needs without resorting to nuclear power. The only reason Labour AMs changed their minds is because Labour at Westminster forced them to follow Labour's UK policy and ditch Labour's Welsh policy. So much for Carwyn standing up for the Welsh national interest.

Similarly the LibDem U-turn was made by the UK party, without any consideration of whether Welsh needs were different from those of England. I don't think it even entered their heads to allow the Welsh LibDems to decide for themselves what they think might be best for Wales.

Welsh not British said...

With regards to the announcement of the new Hinkley point nuclear power station. Hinkley to Barry is 15 miles away, Hinkley to Cardiff is 16 miles yet Hinkley to Bristol is 30 miles away.

Do you know if there any countries that have objected to other countries having nukes so close to their borders? It'd be nice for there to be some form of precedent.

Anonymous said...


There was some conflict between Armania nad Turkey regarding Armenia's nuclar plant close to Turkish borders. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenia%E2%80%93Turkey_relations

Anonymous said...


Random said...

Have you read George Monbiot's article today


Welsh not British said...

Cheers anon, apparerntly Germany have been quite vocal about other nations nukes as well as Montenegro opposing Albanian nukes.

MH said...

I'm not sure there's much we can do to prevent a development in England. All any other country can really do is hold the country that hosts the nuclear power station to account. It can monitor leaks and emissions and kick up a fuss, as Ireland has constantly done with radioactive leaks into the Irish Sea, but probably not much more. If there is a serious accident, then we would be able to claim compensation, but only after the damage had been done.


George Monbiot's position is a bit weird, Random. I don't disagree with the fact that nuclear power is less damaging than some other forms of generating electricity, such as coal; and therefore that nuclear is preferable to coal. From a global perspective, this makes sense.

However it would be a mistake to then say that nuclear power is acceptable for a country that can generate more electricity than it consumes from renewable sources. Wales can do this easily, therefore Wales does not need nuclear power. George has got the "think globally" part right, but he hasn't grasped the significance of "act locally".

As for his point that the UK government has given the go-ahead for the wrong sort of nuclear power, I half agree. The problem is that the fast breeder alternatives will produce electricity that costs even more. The UK has gone for the cheap option because UK governments are short-sighted. If it had properly developed renewables over the last twenty years or so it could have avoided any hint of a "keep the lights on" crisis. Nuclear is a panic reaction to not having done enough in the past, and I think that explains why Labour AMs and the LibDems have U-turned.

The big cost that hasn't been considered properly is what to do with nuclear waste that will be around for many generations (which is entirely to be expected from short-sighted governments) and this is one of the big advantages of those fast breeder reactors that are specifically configured to extract energy from spent nuclear fuel. So although they don't produce electricity more cheaply, they save the cost of having to store spent nuclear fuel indefinitely. But it's a very long term equation. You don't feed spent nuclear fuel in and get no waste product. What you get is slightly less toxic waste. This then has to be reprocessed (effectively re-concentrated) to produce more fuel. This cycle would then continue for several hundred years. But at least the overall radioactivity of the waste would be gradually getting smaller rather than bigger.

Would a fast breeder reactor such as PRISM from GE-Hitachi be a better option for Wylfa B than a conventional reactor currently proposed by Hitachi-GE? (Note the supreme irony ... these companies don't care what reactors they build, so long as the make money out of building them.) In global terms, yes. But the cycle requires a reprocessing facility as well, together with stockpiles of spent fuel waiting to be reprocessed. So to get one positive, Môn would have to accept two negatives.

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