The Labour party is divided over whether to back nuclear power stations in the UK, creating further uncertainty over the future of several new plants that are seen as crucial to Britain’s energy security. The high cost of the Hinkley Point power station, under construction for £20bn in Somerset, has prompted questions across Westminster about whether nuclear still represents value for money. The debate is especially intense within the opposition Labour party, where some MPs favour the industrial benefits of building power stations, while a growing faction wants to support only renewable wind and solar energy programmes. “It’s like a wasp’s nest, the differences are really bad,” said one shadow minister. “The jury is out and personally I’m still not convinced that nuclear should be part of the mix.” Rebecca Long-Bailey, shadow business secretary, remains adamant that Labour should continue to support Wylfa, as well as another project at Moorside in Cumbria. “Public investment in nuclear energy would bring huge benefits through the nuclear supply chain and energy security,” she said last year.Ms Long-Bailey’s position is also supported by Sue Hayman, shadow environment secretary, whose constituency is in Cumbria. Large unions, including Unite and the GMB, are also strong advocates of nuclear energy.But other senior Labour figures are arguing for a U-turn, unless the cost of new nuclear plants can be reduced sharply.One compromise under consideration could see Labour keep the commitment it made in last year’s manifesto by supporting smaller “modular” reactors, rather than bigger, more expensive schemes such as Wylfa and Moorside. John McDonnell, shadow chancellor, is officially in favour of new nuclear projects, but was previously opposed. As a backbench MP in 2012, he suggested a Labour government should announce an end to nuclear power within the first 100 days of taking office. “There’s no way I can see a Labour government going ahead with the sort of subsidies we saw with Hinkley again,” said one senior Labour figure. “The companies behind Wylfa and Moorside would need to offer much better value for money.”Horizon and other nuclear developers are aiming to reduce the cost of constructing nuclear plants by 20 to 30 per cent compared with Hinkley, in an effort to remain competitive against the falling cost of renewables. Senior people in the nuclear industry said they remained confident about Labour’s continued support for their projects, because of the strength of union backing.
FT 6th May 2018 read more »