Aberthaw blockade – what happened and why
December 16, 2016

Aberthaw power station’s entrance road was blockaded on Monday 12th December. Activists from Reclaim the Power took the action to highlight the impacts Aberthaw, and all other coal power stations, have on climate change and air pollution.

Around 15 people blocked the only entrance with two tripods, tall metal structures which cannot be moved easily once someone is sat in their apex. The action lasted over four hours before protesters left, with no arrests. No personal details were given although there were many police in attendance.

Generation of electricity was not affected by the action, but no vehicles were able to enter or leave the premises, causing a large amount of inconvenience and delay. This is the second action of a series against the power station. Here is a short clip of the first action, with animation showing why we need to act.

Aberthaw is the biggest emitter of nitrogen oxides relative to energy produced in Europe. Nitrogen oxides are linked to many respiratory diseases including bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma. This pollution is concentrated in south Wales but also impacts Bristol and south west England. At present Aberthaw kills 400 people a year.

The European Court of Justice has ruled against the UK government for allowing Aberthaw to breach EU air quality standards for nitrogen oxides (NOX) since 2007. RWE who run the power station says it will make changes which could reduce the release of NOX by 30%. By continuing to produce nitrogen oxides the power station would still kill 270 people a year. This is simply unacceptable.

The power station is choosing not to use the best NOX abatement technology, instead it plans to make the reduction through changing the source of its coal from Welsh valleys to imported coal. Most of the coal imported for the UK power stations currently comes from Russia and Colombia, where the situations for the people living close to the opencast mines amount to cultural genocide.

RWE’s choice to marginally reduce the emissions from this power station in this way, could cause more people in Colombia respiratory diseases in order to slightly reduce the air pollution in the UK. Dust from Cerrejón coal mine, which already supplies other UK power stations, is causing respiratory problems as well as diverting the water from arid communities.

300 people from Reclaim the Power occupied the largest opencast coal mine in the UK, Ffos-y-fran, earlier this year. Ffos-y-fran supplies Aberthaw power station at present. It is important that Ffos-y-fran and all the other Welsh opencast coal mines are fully restored rather than abandoned, which is what has been happening.

The UK government are currently running a consultation into closing all coal power stations in 2025. For those at the front-lines of fossil fuel extraction and climate change this is simply too slow. This is Reclaim the Power’s submission to the consultation. Close Aberthaw and the other coal power stations now!