Language activists in Wales have been fighting to protect the Welsh language from a rather unlikely threat: nuclear energy. According to a recent report from the Welsh newspaper Nation Cymru, Welsh language advocates have joined forces with anti-nuclear groups in Wales in order to lobby against the development of new nuclear projects in areas with particularly large populations of Welsh speakers.
The activists came together to write a letter to all members of the Anglesey and Gwynedd Council urging against the support of the nuclear plants in the region, the development of which could displace Welsh speakers in the region. Anglesey and Gwynedd are both counties in the northwestern portion of the country, and the region boasts a large number of Welsh speakers — it’s estimated that in Gwynedd, more than 80% of residents speak the language fluently.
“We encourage you to move in a new direction at (the next) extraordinary meeting of the Council. Gwynedd County Council has missed out on new ideas and new thinking by focusing so much of its attention on new nuclear when it could have developed smaller, innovative, community owned energy alternatives,” reads the letter, which was undersigned by groups such as the Welsh Forum and the Nuclear Free Local Authorities. “It would not need so many new homes for such developments and the area could retain its Welsh language speakers, who would be proud to live in Gwynedd and Anglesey.”
The Welsh language — spoken by roughly one million people worldwide — is the only member of the Celtic language family (which includes Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, and Breton among other) that isn’t considered to be endangered by UNESCO. That said, the language is still used by a minority of Welsh residents, with just about 30% of Welsh people able to speak the language fluently; historically, the language has sort of been overshadowed by the English language, which serves as the country’s de facto language, and its subordination to English is quite evident in the state’s day-to-day affairs.