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Nuclear Power is ‘Critical’ to UK’s Energy Mix Says Labour

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As part of the move to “get Britain building”, Labour Leader, Keir Starmer, has said that nuclear power is a ‘critical part’ of the UK’s energy mix as the party pledges to kickstart projects to boost energy security, cut costs, create jobs and tackle the climate crisis.

Nuclear power and net zero

Ahead of Starmer’s address in Scotland where he will set out Labour’s net zero policies, the party has said it would “push forward” on nuclear energy to boost energy security, cut costs for consumers and create jobs.  

Starmer has accused the Conservatives of a “shambolic” failure to open any nuclear power plants, despite 13 years in government. The Labour leader visited Hinkley Point C in Somerset today, one of a number of new plants still not in operation, despite having been identified in 2009 when Labour was last in power.

“My government will lower household energy bills, create jobs and ensure Britain’s energy security. Nuclear is a critical part of the UK’s energy mix,” said Starmer, who claimed Tory failure to approve the new plans had cost 7,000 British jobs.

“I think we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity now to seize the jobs of the future” he added, as he asserted that adapting to climate change and exploring new energy sources would bring fresh opportunities.

Labour’s position on renewable energy

Last month, Labour shadow ministers confirmed that if they win the next election, they will ban new domestic oil and gas projects as part of their strategy to achieve zero-carbon power by 2030. Instead, the party is hoping to focus on investing in renewable energy sources like wind and nuclear power. The plan not only involves banning new licenses for North Sea oil and gas, but also limiting borrowing for investments exclusively to green initiatives. Starmer is set to announce this commitment formally in a speech later this month, outlining further details of his green agenda.

Restrictions on oil and gas have received support from diverse groups, including environmental activists, trade unions, and even the Women’s Institute – a letter signed by 139 organisations including the Countryside Charity, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, urges Starmer to stand against new oil and gas developments and to provide details on how the party plans to assist workers in transitioning from fossil fuels to secure green jobs.

Crucially, Tessa Khan, the founder of Uplift, a group advocating for a shift away from fossil fuels and signatory of the letter supporting Labour’s position, emphasised that their stance aligns with mainstream climate science and is supported across various sectors in the UK.

Criticism

Labour’s pledge to ban oil and gas extraction licences has not come without criticism. For example, GMB, one of Labour’s major financial contributors, has accused the party of naivety and argues the party will create a “cliff edge” that will hit jobs. General secretary, Gary Smith, has stated that their focus seemed to be on populism rather than a comprehensive understanding of what is best for the country.

In response, both Starmer and shadow business secretary, Jonathan Reynolds, have moved to reassure trade union critics that the party’s energy plans would not hit jobs as they are not suggesting the immediate shutdown of existing oil and gas fields in the North Sea, as they are projected to remain operational until 2050.

Other critics include business leaders based in Aberdeen and the Conservative Party. Concerning Russia, Grant Shapps, the energy secretary, asserting that Labour’s plans represents an “ideological vendetta against British energy independence”. Shapps is expected to make a decision soon on whether to approve drilling at the large Rosebank oilfield near Shetland.

The opposition faced by Labour’s plans has raised concerns among environmental groups, particularly given recent backtracking on other policies such as the pledge to eliminate university tuition fees. Some members of Starmer’s frontbench are pressuring him to revise the remit of the party’s £28 billion climate fund to include non-green infrastructure projects.

Final thought

The Labour Party is providing hope that sustainable energy will be prioritised after the next election. Climate action is much needed and renewable sources are crucial for securing the wellbeing of the future generations.

Curia’s Energy Sustainability Commission

To find out more about policy institute Curia‘s energy sustainability commission, contact team@curiauk.com.

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