Government must develop long term strategy for nuclear sector say industry experts
Dods Monitoring political consultant, Rob Micklewright, provides an overview of the recent meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Nuclear.
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Nuclear met this week to discuss the Government’s recently published industrial strategy. Contributions focussed on the importance of place and long-term thinking to the industry.
On the panel were BEIS committee chair Iain Wright MP, NuGen’s director of corporate affairs Gary Shuttleworth, chief executive of Nuclear AMRC Mike Tynan and chief executive of the National Nuclear Laboratory Paul Howarth. The meeting was chaired by Sue Hayman MP.
Iain Wright started the discussion and praised the key role the nuclear industry played in providing secure, low carbon energy.
He said the industrial strategy needed to provide a long-term framework, which transcended parliaments and party politics to instil confidence in would-be investors. However he said it was important to get the right mix of horizontal and vertical support from Government as he worried a purely sector approach could stifle innovations that developed from the synergies of cross cutting industries.
Wright also talked about how he would love to see another nuclear power station in Hartlepool because of the huge economic footprint it had in the local area and highlighted how the industry had been successful in creating a co-ordinated education strategy to guarantee future skills in the region.
Gary Shuttleworth, NuGen’s corporate affairs director, also welcomed the industrial strategy which he said was transparent, well-structured and non-prescriptive, which gave the sector an opportunity to shape it. He emphasised the importance of boosting productivity, having a long-term policy framework and the requirement for regional infrastructure investment. In Cumbria, he said this meant improving the road, rail and broadband connectivity in the region.
Mike Tynan, chief executive of the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC) focussed on the importance of driving innovation in the sector through collaborative research in order to keep reducing the risk, costs and timescales of projects. He highlighted that the nuclear industry was global so a lack of competitiveness in the UK supply chain would mean a lack of opportunities.
Chief executive of the National Nuclear Laboratory Paul Howarth discussed how the UK was a leading nuclear nation with capabilities right across the fuel cycle. He said that although the UK was not currently a nuclear vendor they were going to building a variety of different reactors which would help keep the supply chain innovative and competitive. Nevertheless he said more co-ordination was needed in the sector and questioned whether the right institutions to do this currently existed.
There was also debate about the potential role of Government in helping investors with the upfront capital costs of building new nuclear power stations. Shuttleworth said there was always a role for government and optimising that was crucial. Howarth pointed out government could be most helpful in bring down the costs of financing new projects.
Wright was more cautious saying upfront government support could in effect nationalise the downside and leave the taxpayer footing the bill whilst the upside was privatised and benefitted the company.
Overall there was optimism in the room about the potential of a sector deal for the nuclear industry but also agreement about the need for it to be long-term and focus on the right places and institutions to make it happen.
Dods Monitoring has sector specific consultants here to help with key analysis and updates. Please get in touch for more details on this service.
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.