Nuclear and the Labour Movement can be powerful allies in the battle to overcome climate change
On 12 September, the Trades Union Congress voted strongly to endorse “the construction of new nuclear plants, benefiting communities from Sizewell to West Cumbria, and the development of Small Modular Reactors”, as part of a comprehensive plan to tackle climate change.
Why? Because nuclear is an industry that can give new jobs, new opportunities and fresh hope to working people as we move to a net zero economy.
Nuclear jobs are green jobs, but more than that they are skilled, stable, well-paid and organised: exactly the type the Labour Party stands for.
We will need four times the clean electricity, and perhaps seven times the clean energy to do our part to fight climate change. We also need to create the kind of jobs not just to pay the bills, but to build communities, to build families, and to build futures on. Nuclear does both.
Its green credentials are impeccable: nuclear has saved more carbon that any other electricity source we have, and remains our only proven source of clean, always-on power.
The industry supports 60,000 jobs directly: 90% of those are outside London and the South East, in traditionally more working-class areas. All of our nuclear power stations, for instance, are in coastal communities, historically the most deprived in all of the UK. Nuclear workers, however, are paid two or three times the average local wage, and twice the national average. The industry is a critical source of local pride and local economic development.
But we cannot take nuclear for granted. In the next two and half years, most of the UK’s nuclear fleet will retire. By 2030, all but one station will go.
Without new investment, the jobs, the skills, and the industrial base that we have built for seven decades in this country will slip away. Our emissions will rise, and our climate goals will fall beyond reach.
We can solve this though, by building new nuclear power stations alongside our major investment in renewable technologies.
Experience shows that nuclear and renewables working hand in hand in the best way to generate jobs and get emissions down, and that is what we want. The first step is for the Government to introduce, and the Labour Party to support, a new financing model, so it is cheaper to raise money to build new plants.
Then we need to get on and build: Sizewell C in Suffolk, at Wylfa in North Wales, in West Cumbria, in Bradwell and small modular reactors all around the country. Each project creates thousands of jobs, and opportunities for the next generation. The country needs that, the planet needs that, and the Labour Party can help secure it.
Originally published in The House magazine and Politics Home.