“It is harder to crack a prejudice than an atom” – Albert Einstein
Since the dawn of time, the Welsh economy was built on mining. The Romans mined for Welsh gold, the Industrial Revolution was galvanised by welsh iron and steel production and Cardiff was on the map as the top coal exporter in the world. By the 1990s only 2 steel works were left in South Wales, the coal and iron deposits have been depleted and the mines closed down; slashing open a swathe of unemployment and pushing up power bills.
So we have 3 gaps here, we need new industry, we need new jobs and we need cheap electricity. And you know what, we can kill all three birds with one stone. We need to go nuclear.
Prime Minister David Cameron has been converting his political power into domestic power by clamping down on complicated energy tariffs. More significantly, though, he has announced a £700m investment in UK nuclear power from Japanese technology giant, Hitachi for 8 new reactors. This includes an expansion of the Wylfa nuclear plant on Anglesey, North Wales, a proposal rightly supported by the Welsh Assembly. It’s as good for jobs, engineering and cheap electricity as it is for Welsh pride – reinstating the power house of the West.
John Griffiths, the Welsh Labour environment minister, is sceptical. He echoes Alex Salmond’s ambitions in driving nuclear out of Scotland in favour of renewables. This is the wrong approach, as Germany is learning the hard way.
We need to recognise the opportunity here, Wales has all the ingredients for a long term nuclear economy. An abundance of coastline, an industrial workforce and a powerful national identity founded on powering our industrial roots. This is a win-win: we need nuclear, and we need it now.