Where do the main polictical parties stand on nuclear this General Election?
02 December 2019
Climate change has never been more important in a General Election than in 2019. With net zero enshrined in law, the pressure to decarbonise the UK economy is stretching party politics to adopt lines on they may have previously avoided. Nuclear, to some a controversial topic, is essential to meeting net zero and has become a hotly debated topic this election.
We have therefore collated the official party positions on nuclear for you to consider.
Aside from a hard-line stance on Brexit, the Conservative manifesto didn’t do much to rock the boat. Many of the policies which they laid out for the energy sector were as most of us anticipated—although it was surprising that there were no specific plans for nuclear given the work currently being undertaken by the Government, with only general support for nuclear and other low carbon technologies. Fusion got a special shout-out but given Johnson’s announcement that the UK will build the first-ever fusion power plant by 2040, you’d hope it would.
Interestingly, the Welsh Conservatives have said they do not see a new nuclear site in Wales beyond Wylfa Newydd, despite launching the Nuclear Sector Deal in Trawsfynydd last year.
The Conservatives have reaffirmed their commitment to Net Zero by 2050, having enshrined this target into law earlier this year. However, it should be noted that 2050 is that latest date being given to hit Net Zero by any political party this campaign.
Labour’s criticism of the Conservatives’ lack of enthusiasm for tackling the climate emergency has played a central role in their campaign, with the party committing to several initiatives, including, that they believe will get the UK to 90% of electricity and 50% of heat from renewable and low carbon sources by 2030.
We were happy to see Labour’s pledge to new nuclear power to ensure energy security in its manifesto, which included a promise to ‘maximise the potential’ of Wylfa, although no plans were given as to how this would be achieved.
A renationalisation of the energy sector is on the cards if Labour comes into power, although the analysis of this bold change deserves its own blog post…
The Liberal Democrats have not outwardly supported the role nuclear in the UK’s energy mix this election, instead aiming for 80% renewable-powered electricity by 2030 and Net Zero by 2045 through an annual £100 billion climate fund.
Having not backed 100% renewable power by 2050, it could be perceived that there is space for the nuclear industry in the Liberal Democrat’s plans, although given their recent position changes on nuclear power, I wouldn’t hold your breath for a change of mind during this election with the Welsh faction of the party saying they do not see ‘no economic or environmental case’ for any new nuclear plants in the UK.
Scottish National Party
The SNP has, even before this election, have aimed for Net Zero by 2045 as a nation. In their 2019 manifesto, they oppose new build nuclear, pledging to prioritise ‘cleaner, cheaper forms of electricity’. Instead, they are focusing on supporting onshore wind and solar through Contract for Difference auctions after the success of offshore wind strike prices dropping to £39.50/MW/h earlier this year.
In its party manifesto, Plaid Cymru commit to making Wales 100% renewable by 2030 and opposes the construction of nuclear power plants on new sites. This is an interesting position which Plaid have taken for some time, allowing candidates on Ynys Môn and in Dwyfor Meirionnydd to support new build at Wylfa and Trawsfynydd, while the rest of the Party generally opposes it.
This was highlighted by the Plaid candidate for Anglesey, Aled ap Dafydd telling North Wales Live, ‘it’s important for Ynys Môn’s MP to recognise that a new power station could bring real economic benefits, and I’d work to maximise that.’
The Green Party wants to reduce the UK’s reliance of nuclear power, typically backing renewable sources of power. However, due to the climate resurgence we have seen in 2019 more and more Green Party members are speaking up on nuclear powers value. It’s doubtful we would see change in the party’s position this close to December 12, but there may be potential consessions in the future.
The Brexit Party were not expected to publish a manifesto, instead opting to release a ‘Contract for the People’. Their main priority is – you guessed it! – Brexit and the party has yet to release any major policies on climate change and the energy mix.