Net zero needs nuclear, the nation needs nuclear
Ahead of Labour Connected next week, Tom Greatrex from the NIA explains how nuclear can help meet the climate goals, and sustain long term jobs.
Anneliese Dodds is quite correct to highlight that the UK faces both a climate crisis and a jobs crisis.
Investment in low carbon infrastructure will help with the latter, while being a building block to averting the former. New nuclear capacity, as our current fleet retires over the next few years, will create and sustain highly skilled and long term jobs - green investment in our infrastructure and our communities is a no regrets option.
The Committee on Climate Change has said the UK needs to generate four times as much clean power than we do now by 2050, if net zero is to be a reality.
They estimate that 38% will need to come from ‘firm power’ – that which is not weather dependent and is despatchable. Nuclear is the only proven source of firm low-carbon power in the UK.
It was the Labour Party that approved the UK’s initial fleet of reactors that have saved more than one billion tonnes of carbon emissions in the UK – the equivalent of all our carbon emissions in the last three years.
While the UK has made significant progress in getting more renewable generation on the grid, it is not possible to decarbonise power, heat and transport with wind and solar alone. It is frequently the case that more than half of our electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels, and consequently emitting carbon into the atmosphere.
As experience at home and abroad has shown, if nuclear power goes offline, it is burning carbon heavy gas that fills the gap.
Jobs in nuclear power have been the bedrock of many communities across the country
Nuclear, alongside other low-carbon technologies, will help secure our net zero ambitions, but will also preserve and enhance the UK’s world class engineering, manufacturing and construction skills base and provide employment, apprenticeships and new skills for thousands of people.
Jobs in nuclear power have been the bedrock of many communities across the country: well-paid, secure work, unionised jobs with opportunities for training and development. As we recover from COVID-19, we should invest to create more of these kinds of jobs.
Each large-scale nuclear project generates about 20,000 jobs in construction and drives growth across the supply chain.
Nuclear workers, be they in Dounreay, Hartlepool, Warrington or Preston, are some of the most productive in the country. There are currently 60,000 of them, but there could be 300,000 by 2050, if we invest in our Net Zero future.
The anticipated Energy White Paper this autumn will likely reinvigorate the discussion on making net zero real – and how to do so while fostering economic activity up and down the country – and the Labour Party has an integral role to play in setting out its approach.
Nuclear can help meet the climate goals, and be a part of jobs growth into the bargain.