Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has lent his support to the UK’s nuclear industry calling for a vast ramp-up in projects and slamming the Tory’s “shambolic” failure to open no nuclear power plants during its 13 years of power.
Ahead of a visit to under-construction nuclear plant Hinkley Point C in Somerset, the Labour leader said “nuclear is a critical part of the UK’s energy mix” and vowed to “get Britain building”.
“The British people should be benefitting from our country’s natural resources, but the Tories’ woeful record is holding us all back,” Starmer said.
Currently, nuclear generates about 7GW of the UK’s power, but that could decline as the country’s ageing nuclear fleet is set to go offline over the next two decades.
The government is targeting 24GW of generation by 2050 as part of its energy security strategy.
However, despite Sizewell C and Hinkley Point C being identified in 2009, both are not operational.
The nuclear sector backed Labour’s push to bolster nuclear power, with Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association stating that Starmer was absolutely right to “highlight the need to move at pace on new nuclear projects in the UK.”
“Starting with Sizewell C, getting on now with both large-scale projects and a fleet of small modular reactors will improve energy security, provide economic activity and protect the environment,” Greatrex told City A.M.
“Understanding that huge opportunity and signalling a determination to move at pace will be welcomed by manufacturing, engineering and energy industries at this crucial time,” Greatrex added.
The decision to get behind nuclear power comes after the party’s green energy transition plans came under fire from GMB trade union leader Gary Smith.
David Whitehouse, chief executive of North Sea industry body Offshore Energy UK, told City A.M. that it did not need to be an either or when it came to low carbon energy and domestic fossil fuels.
He said: “A variety of solutions, like wind, hydrogen, and nuclear will be necessary for a sustainable future, but as we build that future, there is no simple choice between renewables or oil and gas. The reality is that to keep the lights on, grow our economy and achieve a fair net zero, we need both.”
The industry boss highlighted that 75 per cent of our energy comes from oil and gas, with just under half the UK’s energy needs met by North Sea production.
“If we stop licensing for oil and gas now, 80 per cent of our oil and gas will be imported by the end of the decade – and likely from countries with less stringent environmental obligations. That has real world implications for not only our energy security, but for over 200,000 people who work in this sector and for our and climate goals too,” he said.