Monday 29 August 2016

John Willock - A Farewell to a great community activist and friend to many.

John Willock died on 30th May aged 67 in Prince Philip Hospital, He was born on the 11th of May 1949. All his adult life he strove to improve the lot of ordinary people. Cheerful, enthusiastic and resilient, John would help anyone and was fearless in support of a good cause.

 A son of the village of Llangennech, close to Llanelli, he served as a Community Councillor there for 20 years and was Chair of his council twice. His passions were politics, community service, and  his family, including his dogs and racing pigeons.

He was a lifelong socialist, a former trade union member and shop steward. A tireless campaigner, one of the first members of People First Wales/ Gwerin Gyntaf Cymru, for whom he was a County Council candidate in 2012 and a stalwart supporter.

 John spent his life fighting injustice and improving facilities for local people. In Llangennech he started an angling club, youth club, dramatic society and the historic society. In the wider Llanelli area he was a long time secretary of the Llanelli Trades Council, he ran a Llanelli based Socialist Discussion Group,  he successfully campaigned against the closure of Llanelli Care homes, saving Caemaen Care Home from closure.  He was himself recently a resident of Ty Mair Nursing Home when illness left him unable to cope at home.
John was instrumental in setting up the Annual Commemoration of the 1911 Llanelii Railway Strike which takes place in Llanelli every August. He was always greatly impressed by the courage of the Strikers, the brutality of the shootings and the anger of community shown afterwards.. Usually when troops start shooting people dead , the locals disperse. In Llanelli hundreds of unarmed, angry townspeople chased the soldiers back to the station and they had to lock themselves in for their own safety  as stones broke every window. No wonder the history of the incident was suppressed.

This year the 1911 committee, of which John was secretary, dedicated the events of this commemoration week to the man whose energy and dynamism promoted this important event.
John was a loving father and is survived by his sons, James and Julian. Tragically his lovely daughter Samantha suddenly and unexpectedly died earlier this year. John was heartbroken, and perhaps, in his grief never fully recovered from the shock.    

John’s Funeral is at Llanelli Crematorium 9.00 am Friday 2nd September 2016 

 Siân Caiach

Saturday 6 August 2016

A different nuclear solution by Robin Burn I Eng FIMMM

Small modular nuclear reactors for secure continuity of energy supply.

The UK energy generating and supply industry, has had a program of diversification into renewable sources of supply for many years, enabling the UK to be less reliant on finite gaseous and liquid form hydrocarbons, as well as coal. 

Coal fired power generation, which has been the staple source of electricity, has been gradually replaced by gas fired power stations, thus reducing carbon dioxide emissions, as well as increasing the efficiency of energy conversion.

Increasingly, over the last few decades, the adoption of renewable forms of energy, the general mix of extractable sources, and solar wind and water power, has tilted toward the latter sources.

Since the 1950’s, the utilisation of nuclear energy to provide the nations power requirements, has never really fulfilled its promise to become the primary source of the nation’s energy needs.
The siting of the station, overruns in terms of construction times, and costs, has restricted its position in the energy market.

The use of nuclear has once again become a topic of debate with the proposed construction of a third reactor on the Hinkley Point site, the use of a new design of the reactor which has its roots outside of the UK. Add to this the source of the funding has led to its delay on a political level.

Energy sustainability as well as affordability is the crux to the UK economy and political stability. The need for long term reliability as well as fulfilling the need for carbon dioxide emissions requires the use of a nuclear solution.

This poses the overriding question of how this can be delivered in an acceptable manner at affordable costs

Fortunately a solution is available widely used safely and efficiently delivering electrical power where it is needed at an affordable level.

Small modular nuclear reactors (SMNR’s) have been used as a generator of electrical power for marine propulsion on surface and subsea platforms for more than 50 years.

The defence of our  nation was underpinned by the use of our nuclear weapons program delivered from a nuclear powered fleet of submarines for more than 50 years. The United States has nuclear powered aircraft carriers, and along with other NATO and non NATO countries, as well as commercial ships a total of more than 150 small modular nuclear reactors are powering the worlds sea going traffic.

The good news for the UK is that a major engineering group is building these SMNR units constructed in the UK.

The Engineering conglomerate Rolls Royce long associated with the manufacture and supply of engineered products to the defense and aerospace requirements of the UK are the UK leader of this technology. Rolls Royce gas powered engines drive electric generating turbines in gas powered power plants.

A SMNR as a nuclear submarine power source is rated at around 250MW, with a projected build cost as a power station at around £1.25bn the proposed Hinkley point nuclear power station is rated at  3200 megawatt with a build cost of £18bn..

The advantages of building SMNR’s as an alternative are as follows

The SMNR has 50 years of usage in its current form
The existing design is UK based in terms of manufacture using uk sourced components.

The units can be factory built and assembled, reducing unit costs with guaranteed build quantities.

The smaller power station footprint increases site potential availability.

A smaller reactor size requires much less coolant eliminating the requirement of coastal sites.

Build times are significantly reduced.

SMNR’s require fuel of less than 5% enrichment.

If we are obliged to use Nuclear Power to reduce carbon emissions and save the planet, do we really need to build expensive untested big plants when home-grown technology would do? Is this more about producing weapons grade nuclear material than actually cutting carbon?

Robin Burn

Further Reading:

Daily Telegraph Business Section 19th March 2016
Industry Editor Alan Tovey

UPDATE 15.09.2016

" Whilst the announcement today, of the go ahead of Hinkly Point C, on the basis of securing the future needs of UK energy supply, is recognized, an opportunity for  the engineering industry in the UK to be allowed to utilise existing proven technology, has been ignored, at least for the near future. This is a disappointing decision, as hundreds of millions of pounds sterling has been allocated, by the Treasury over the last 2 years, for developing existing technology, used in marine propulsion, to be adapted as a land based energy resource.
Utilisation would secure the UK's special steel production, safeguarding existing plant, and jobs,as well as security, and cost to the UK taxpayer.
It is hoped that the Government consider for future nuclear power stations, not to waste the development funding already allocated, and to apply the developed units for future power generating plants."  

Robin Burn

Update January 1st 2017

It has been brought to the authors attention, that the proposed Moorside nuclear plant, proposed by Nugeneration to be built near to Sellafield, will utilise the construction of 3 Westinghouse design Small Modular Reactors(SMR) AP1000 units, each reactor having an output of around 1.15GW.
The technology was earmarked for potential by the IOM3 energy Materials Group Chair,Professor Peter Flewitt Materials World March 2016,page 14

Friday 5 August 2016

The Swirling Dust Chokes Common Sense

Since the EU referendum result there have been big political movements but the dust still blows around relentlessly with seemingly endless and random political turmoil.
From the relatively civilized and managed dethronement of David Cameron and George Osbourne to the chaotic "Anyone but Corbin" coup attempt in Labour party, the tumbleweed continues to blow past the Last Chance Saloon. UKIP are the next to struggle with a leadership contest, following the Assembly Group leadership contest with a far more bitter UK Party battle. As an outsider I don't know enough about any major party to offer any explanations but will wait for the kiss and tell stories, or in the case of the Conservatives something around page 327 of a weighty political biography.

Even here in Carmarthenshire tremors are disrupting normal political life, Sitting Labour Councillors de-selected by the local party, some then reinstated on appeal. Our Llanelli MP now said to fear deselection too, allegedly from the large number of new Labour members, suspected supporters of JC, who may take her resignation from the shadow cabinet as an unforgivable  show of disloyalty to Jeremy Corbyn.

Even Plaid has a hint of dangerous eccentricity, having decided, as part of their policy to increase the number of welsh speakers, on the "cost neutral" policy of converting all streamed primary schools, those with 2 groups of children taught in the same building through either the medium of welsh or English, to Welsh medium only schools. Quite acceptable to most communities where there are easily accessible alternative English Language Schools, not so welcome in the village of Llangennech where there is no guarantee of an English language school place anywhere nearby and no hope of any help from the County Council in the transition period for transportation etc. In contrast to the council's policy of giving free school transport to children who opt for Welsh medium education where there is no local Welsh Medium provision, the privilege is not to be shared  with those who wish their children to be educated in the medium of English..

 Bad news of course for some English Medium primary school teachers in the area, but many actually  are native Welsh speakers. Years  ago I moved my own children from an English medium school to a streamed school when I discovered the poor quality of Welsh language teaching my younger  children had been  getting. The head teacher was outraged. "How can you say we don't teach Welsh well?" he said "We teachers speak Welsh to each other in front of the pupils all the time".

 I've never regretted the move and neither have my daughters. However, both my older children had learning difficulties and both did well in English medium primary education. I really doubt they would have done as well in a second language.  However, both now are extremely sympathetic to the Welsh language, one aims to become fluent in Welsh and the other, with all the enthusiasm of youth, is fully behind converting all schools in Wales to  Welsh medium only at all levels, even though it would mean that his own ambitions to become a Physics teacher might have to be fulfilled in another country.

Gareth Jones, the Plaid Executive Councillor for Education, is adamant that no quarter will be given in Llangennech and that not being bilingual is such a disadvantage that refusal to allow your children to attend a Welsh Medium Primary School is practically child neglect. All  research quoted seems to be the old Canadian standard stuff but the French/English language position in Canada is considerably different than the position of English and Welsh here.

Now in Carmarthenshire, Welsh Medium education is already the majority choice in primary school and very well favoured by native Welsh speakers and middle class English Speaking families. If the school in Llangennech is left to develop in the Community as a streamed school the English stream, already smaller than the Welsh one, could naturally become redundant over time. However, to impose Welsh medium education on families who have not chosen it is a dangerous game. The accusation that the Welsh Nationalist Party will force everybody in Wales to speak Welsh is one charge which is hurled at them in English speaking areas by their political opponents. Ridiculous, but given credibility by this attempt seeking to force parents in a majority English speaking community to put their children into immersive Welsh tuition whether they want it or not..

Saving the Welsh Language is a big job, and unnecessarily making enemies never a great idea. Even if every child leaves primary school fluent in Welsh, continues their education in Welsh in Secondary School and are all fluent Welsh speakers at 18, they then ,practically, have any formal degree level education and most other adult training through the medium of English  only and many, perhaps most, may well leave the area to study or for work. Ironically, the better their educational achievement, the lower the likelihood may be of them being socially able to remain in or near a Welsh speaking community. Immersion learning may accelerate competence in another language but if  you rarely use it you risk losing that competence and confidence.We need to set up sizable Welsh communities to actually preserve Welsh as a language of the future, a language of local development, industry, innovation and commerce. We need to do more than just teach children fluent welsh in isolation.

In Scotland, the free tuition fees only apply to Scottish Universities and only those who can prove that the course they need is worthwhile and not found in Scotland can apply for grant support outside Scotland. This is much better scheme than trying to tempt graduates back with fee refunds for living in Wales after graduation. By then they will have lived away for some years and may well find it easier to get their first jobs in the area they have been studying in. This is especially important in medicine where the newly graduated doctors are very likely to be offered their first jobs within the area they trained in,and the longer they stay away the less likelihood of returning permanently.

Converting streamed schools may be low cost but may well  also be low impact. We needs more resolve, more money and more courage to save the language and Plaid Cymru members know that.
Adam Price AM

What can we do to keep welsh speaking youngsters in a community and boost the local economy. at the same time?

Adam Price's short paper Arfor written in 2013 has been the most inspirational document I have read in the last few years on the practical preservation of Welsh. Although  personally I   do have a few doubts about the local authority leadership plan [mainly due to my own Local Government experience in Carmarthenshire where the comparison with the Sicilian Mafia is very flattering - the mafia traditionally actually have objectives, albeit criminal, a code of honour  and a degree of competence.]

 The general Arfor plan is surely deliverable and would stimulate the economy of Carmarthenshire much more than the many new private housing estates, mainly for retirees, currently promoted locally. It would provide exclusively social housing for the settlement, attract residents who would be enthusiastic and inspired by the project, as well as freeing up other local social housing for general use. It would need careful legal protections but if set up as a stand alone project it should work. Funding could be partly from  Welsh Government and it may inspire many private individuals to donate generously, and perhaps the wealthy diaspora could finally feel that something worthwhile deserved their support. Its time that the Plaid Cymru Group that allegedly lead  Carmarthenshire found their building site to deliver the Arfor Project,, rather than fret about whether or not anther supermarket is built at Cross Hands.

When it is clear that the welsh language is practical, dynamic and economically positive locally, language choice is really boosted towards Welsh.  English speaking parents are not fooled by  lectures on the advantages of bilingualism in Canada which they can see are not replicated here

How about putting the changes at Llangennech school on the back burner for a few years and start actually planning and building a future in the Welsh Language that is attractive , prosperous and exciting?

plenty of brownfield sites in Carmarthenshire .
 Siân Caiach

PS The Arfor document used to be accessible on the Plaid Cymru website but they have changed the access choices and I can't find it today. If anyone wants the English text I have a copy and will send to on request::