Wylfa B – The Emperor Has No Clothes

The Disappearing Story!
While the British press was focussing on the General Election on 8th June 2017, Hitachi had arranged a meeting in Japan as an attempt to entice commercial investors for its nuclear plans in Britain. But there’s no word of this on the front page of the Hitachi Ltd owned Horizon Nuclear Power’s website.

No word in the mass media either.

Why? Had no-one apart from PAWB and a few anoraks noticed? Perhaps – but could it be that the true reason is that Hitachi have quietly put Horizon up for sale? And that this spoils the narrative of Horizon’s latest consultation that they’ve changed their plans somewhat in order to accommodate concerns about an influx of workers and the effects on the Welsh language and the villages of Anglesey? PAWB believes that the main reason for the changes in the plan is to reduce the cost of the project and so make it more attractive to commercial investors.

Why is Hitachi keen to sell Horizon?
The nuclear industry has limped from one crisis to another for years. 2017 has been especially bad. Hitachi’s biggest nightmare is for the same thing to happen to them as has happened to Toshiba – another huge Japanese company which is prominent in the nuclear cauldron. Westinghouse, an American company owned by Toshiba, is bankrupt, and has dragged Toshiba down as a result.

Hitachi itself has pulled out of a joint venture to enrich uranium with General Electric in the US, the very uranium which was projected to be ordered for use in new nuclear plants. BUT, NO NEW NUCLEAR PLANTS = NO ORDERS FOR URANIUM. RESULT – A LOSS OF £500 million FOR HITACHI.

EDF, which wants to build Hinkley C, is in financial trouble, and dependent on the state. In the US, nuclear power stations are closing as the electricity which they produce is too expensive, and it is possible that part built nuclear plants may never open. Recently a referendum in Switzerland was in favour of phasing out nuclear power. And of course the disaster at Fukushima continues.

No answer either to the problem of nuclear waste disposal – unlike every other industry. So, like every other commercial company which seeks to minimise risk and safeguard profits, Hitachi is willing to sell a share in Horizon – and the share can be up to 100%. This is in addition to the risk sharing which is already in place due to the formation of “Menter Newydd” for the building work – the partners are Hitachi, Bechtel from the US and JGC from Japan (via their UK subsidiary). Two companies with colourful records, to say the least. In addition, renewable energy is cheaper and more plentiful than ever, and is overcoming the problem of on demand energy by technologies for energy storage and smart management.

A number of influential commentators now think that Hinkley C will be the only new plant we’ll see in the much trumpeted nuclear “renaissance” – and there are doubts about that one too.

Where is Hitachi now?
Simply, without commercial investors who have put money on the table. It seems that the plan which was meant to make wagonloads of cash when Horizon was bought in 2012 has turned into a financial headache.

Hitachi have made it perfectly clear that building will not start unless there is sufficient investment in Horizon. It is clearly obvious that there will not be a Wylfa B unless Hitachi can persuade the Governments of Westminster and possibly Japan to provide sufficient guarantees to draw in commercial investors. So yet again the poor old taxpayer asked to fork out. Is this likely given the current political hotchpotch in the United Kingdom following Brexit and a hung Parliament?

The first question from an investor has to be – if your plan is so good why would you want to share it with us? Is this why there is a feeling in Japan that Horizon is having a negative effect on Hitachi’s share price?

What does this all mean?
Contrary to the upbeat impression given by Horizon there is no certainty that Wylfa B will be built.

Horizon would operate Wylfa B – a company whose future ownership is unknown, and a company with no experience of running a nuclear power station. To all intents and purposes Hitachi wants to wash its hands of any responsibility for running Wylfa B, and of course any care about the toxic nuclear waste which would be on site for over a century. A fine example of corporate responsibility!

Thus the Emperor Hitachi has no clothes, and Horizon has no shirt!


What does PAWB say?

  • We call on Hitachi to abandon its plans to build Wylfa B. There is more than enough work for them in decommissioning nuclear plants worldwide, especially the effort at Fukushima.
  • We call on Horizon to stop environmentally destructive work on the site as there is no financial security from Hitachi.
  • We recognise Hitachi’s expertise in renewable technology. We would be overjoyed if they are sufficiently foresighted to convert Horizon into a company which would be a frontrunner in the field. Think of all of the well paid job opportunities then! And in Anglesey at that! And so utilising the skills taught at Coleg Menai in Llangefni.
  • We respectfully ask the County Councils of Ynys Mon and Gwynedd to rethink their Local Development Plan, which strongly depends on the assumption that Wylfa B will happen.
  • We ask that Ynys Mon Council to review as a matter of urgency the resources given to support Wylfa B at a time of austerity for the council purse. We believe that it is time for a clean slate for economic planning following the recent Council Elections. And of course all spending needs to be justified – including officers’ time.
  • We call on all political parties at every level, locally and nationally, to recognise that nuclear is yesterday’s expensive and dangerous technology, and that sufficient energy and economic progress can be achieved without it.