Shadow environment secretary says expansion of nuclear energy crucial to hitting ambitious climate targets
Shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman has called for a greater role for the nuclear sector in helping deliver net zero emission targets.
Speaking just hours after Labour backed radical plans to reduce Britain’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2030, Ms Hayman said nuclear had to be "part of the plan".
During a panel discussion on the role of the industry in tackling climate change, sponsored by the Nuclear Industry Association, the Labour MP said she was "hugely" supportive of increasing nuclear energy in a bid to meet the ambitious targets, as she warned ministers were “dragging their feet”.
"Conference is challenging us to do that by 2030, which we have said we would look at, but we need to have a plan, and nuclear has to be a part of that plan," she said.
According to research carried out for the Labour Shadow Cabinet, Ms Hayman said around 20% of the UK's energy mix would have to come from nuclear power if the government hoped to meet its emission plans.
"Because research that we have undertaken demonstrated that there is not a possibility of renewables covering the whole of our energy needs by those quite challenging targets," she added.
"And if we are going to be carbon neutral on energy, nuclear has to have around 20% of that energy mix."
But she hit out at the government for their "really disappointing" support for the industry, adding that ministers needed to improve nuclear capacity as a "matter of urgency".
She said: "It is really disappointing that government hasn't really grasped the nettle on this, because it is not like nuclear power stations get built overnight.
"These are long term objectives because it is not just about getting the power stations built, it is about getting the national grid connections sorted.
"These are major infrastructure complex projects."
She added: "You've got my support hugely, and we will keep fighting to get the government to invest in this as an urgent matter. We can't drag our feet on it any further."
Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, urged the party to go further in their support for the industry following a question about their refusal to use the word nuclear when discussing energy.
"For the Labour Party in recent times, they have had a code which is 'renewables and other low-carbon sources', meaning nuclear," he said.
"I don't really understand why you can't say the word nuclear, particularly."
Meanwhile, Mr Greatrex said it was critical for nuclear to play a role alongside renewables in reducing emissions as he warned against pitching them in a "false battle" against each other.
He said: "The ability to get anywhere near previous targets, let alone the targets that we have now, absolutely needs to have as low a carbon mix of power sources as possible.
"It is not about a false battle between renewables and nuclear, or a battle between demand management and storage and nuclear versus renewables and all these kind of different things that people throw around."
He added: "Actually, if we are serious about this then we are going to need all of it to get anywhere near net-zero. And 2050 might seems like a long way away, it is not in reality. It is not in terms of what we are talking about here, which is a complete overhaul in the system of how we get energy."
With a potential general election ahead, Mr Greatrex argued that both parties needed to develop a "roadmap" for delivering a new energy mix as he accused the government of being "woefully lacking" in any concrete planning for transforming the energy sector.
"We have a 2050 target that everyone has signed up to, we have conference policy now which is to aim to do that sooner, and to get as far as we can by 2030. It is no good just having a target and then waiting to see what happens," he said.
"We actually need a roadmap and a programme of action with milestones along the way that drive the activity to get to the end point of net zero.
"That is something which is woefully lacking from the current government, and it is something which frankly, Labour Party policy has not got anywhere close to outlining yet. That I think will be the most urgent task of an incoming Labour government that is going to be dealing with the climate crisis."