Emissions & Environment, Europe, Nuclear, Strategic Development

Call for UK politicians to tackle climate challenge with nuclear power

An influential group of academics, trade unions, professional bodies and non-governmental organisations has called on politicians from all parties to support the crucial role of nuclear power in delivering the dependable low-carbon electricity needed for a ‘net zero’ emissions economy.

A letter, signed by 26 leading figures in the fields of environment, energy, and industry, has been sent to all parliamentary candidates by the Nuclear Industry Association. It sets out the benefits of nuclear and highlights the consequences of not at least replacing the UK’s current fleet of power stations.

Nuclear power currently provides nearly half the UK’s low carbon electricity, some 20 per cent of our electricity overall, powering 1 in 5 of our homes, hospitals and schools. The industry also directly employs around 60,000 people in the UK in long-term high-quality jobs.

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association said: “The next parliamentary term will be crucial for our energy infrastructure. We have to maintain the growth in renewables, but a move away from fossil fuels means weather-dependent sources of power need the low carbon backbone of stable energy that nuclear provides.

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“Every country and region with a very low carbon energy system, like France, Sweden and Ontario in Canada, has achieved this with a combination of nuclear and renewables”.

The NIA also today released a ‘Priorities for Government’ document outlining five key steps to allow nuclear power to play its part in tackling the urgent climate challenge whilst creating jobs and skills for generations to come.

The ‘Priorities’ document calls on the next Government to:

  1. Establish long-term clarity on energy policy, setting out goals for nuclear and establishing a financing regime which will attract investors
  2. Maintain an Industrial Strategy designed to maximise opportunities for UK firms and bring down costs
  3. Commit to a progressive decommissioning programme
  4. Boost careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, enable workers to transition from other industries, and diversify the workforce
  5. Support innovation and future generations of nuclear technology and fuels

The first new build project for a generation is now under construction at Hinkley Point C. When completed the new power station will by itself provide 7 per cent of the UK’s current electricity needs for 60 years. It is already providing jobs and training for local people, and contracts for local and national UK supply chain companies. In the future, as we move away from fossil fuel in heat, transport and power, we will need low carbon electricity.

Given the scale of the challenge that decarbonising the whole of the UK economy poses, large reactors like those planned for Sizewell, Bradwell and elsewhere in the UK, will be needed alongside new technologies such as small and advanced reactors, together with nuclear fusion – as well as renewables.

Yet some major new nuclear projects on Anglesey and in South Gloucestershire have been paused, and one in Cumbria has been stopped altogether.

“There is currently a hiatus in much needed investment”, says Greatrex. “Progress depends on a new approach to financing being implemented promptly. This can deliver the investment needed, and just as importantly bring down the price paid by electricity consumers.

“Building new power stations and growing the nuclear industry will secure long-lasting economic benefit and develop strong relationships with trading partners across the globe.

“There is an opportunity for this Parliament to set out an exciting new blueprint for how the UK is to reach net zero and create a sustainable, low emissions, future for our children and grandchildren. We are urging every candidate to back our proposals and make decarbonisation a reality.”