Why Keir Starmer must embrace nuclear power

Nuclear power plant

Daniel Woods

The topic of nuclear power has been subject to debate, not just politically and economically, but also on an environmental level, as nuclear power, despite being financially expensive and hazardous to maintain, such as the high level of costs to maintain and operate nuclear power plants, it is considered a non-renewable resource. It can generate massive levels of energy when used. In addition, while committing to using clean energy, the UK’s Labour Party leader, Keir Starmer, has shown hesitancy to use nuclear power, despite his claiming not to rule out nuclear weapons or energy in his plan to make the UK environmentally friendly. Here, Daniel Woods explains why Keir Starmer must openly embrace nuclear energy and power use.  

It’s near enough certain that Keir Starmer’s Labour Party will be in governance by the end of the year – with the latest polls giving them a roughly twenty per cent lead. It also seems increasingly likely that the sheer incompetence of the previous thirteen years of Conservative leadership means that Starmer’s premiership will be an eight-year reign at the very least.

In these past thirteen years, the Tory party have taken Britain through a time of almost unprecedented chaos. Brexit, transitioning between five Prime Ministers and a rapidly changing geopolitical climate has taken the UK into a cost-of-living crisis not seen in decades. Particularly in the energy sector; the Office of National Statistics state that around 41% of adults who pay bills say it’s difficult to do so.

There are myriad reasons for this rapid price rise, but the primary one is undoubtedly Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In 2021, Russia exported 40% of Europe’s oil and gas. Sanctions imposed by the EU, the USA and Britain in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have led to widespread volatility in the energy sector. Moreover, as per the IEA, the intensifying conflict in the Middle East will lead to even further shocks to the wholesale gas and oil market.

The use of Fossil fuels harmful impact on the global environmental is becoming significant and noticeable, despite heavy usage of fossil fuels.

It’s quickly becoming undisputable that relying on outside imports for energy is untenable in an age of increasing global instability. The general reliance on fossil fuels (which make up 42.1% of the UK’s national grid) is also a clear issue due to the looming impacts of climate change and the UK’s commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050.

A clear answer for Labour in all of this is to increase the use of renewable energy: renewables provide a local energy source and are already increasing in market share. However, it is vital that there is a reliable baseline of energy for times when renewables aren’t contributing enough. For example, in winter energy prices rise somewhat due to the weather’s impacts on wind turbines and the earlier night’s impact on solar panels. In 2021, a government meeting determined that a wholly renewable based network wouldn’t be resilient enough to deal with these weather events. The answer they landed on is increased storage capacity, which is undeniably important, but a key factor in the race to energy security and Net-Zero will be deploying a fleet of new nuclear reactors.

No nuclear reactors have been brought online in the United Kingdom since Sizewell-B in 1995. Several reactors have either been decommissioned or marked for decommissioning, reducing the UK’s nuclear power generation capabilities to around 6.5GW since Sizewell-B brought the capacity to a peak of 12.7GW.”

Various attempts have been made. Sizewell-C has been in tumultuous production since 2012 – construction is expected to begin sometime this year. Hinkley-point C has had a budget overrun of around 50% and has also been beset by various delays.

In short, the Tory effort to increase the UK’s nuclear capacity has been disastrous. For numerous reasons, it’s imperative that Keir Starmer’s Labour turn this around.

There are positive benefits to using nuclear energy, which in turn, can benefit the people and the nation

Firstly, nuclear energy is safe. It is technically, one of the safest energy sources per terawatt-hour bar, behind solar. This includes supply chain deaths, accidents, emissions, and general pollution. While our views on nuclear power are primarily a result of the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters, with proper regulation, it’s far safer than any other non-renewable power source.

Secondly, with Sir Starmer u-turning on his party’s previous goal of twenty-eight billion pounds a year into funding new green energy products, ensuring return on investment is more crucial than ever. The apparent positive effect of deploying more nuclear capacity on the UK’s decarbonisation efforts is evident, with the additional economic boon it would provide a further advantage. The UK is facing a shortage of skilled workers in this field due to the extremely long time between the construction of plants, so it would incentivise workers to skill up or transition to the field and bring numerous new jobs. Financing this transition would pay for itself many times over.

Collaboration with other nations would make building a new fleet of reactors far easier. By leaving the EU, the UK lost access to vital data and opportunities to work together through the European Commission, but moves must be made to restore these relationships. By relying on EU and US regulators, the UK can cut through red tape and deploy these reactors faster instead of having to check all health and safety themselves. In doing so, the UK must embrace new technologies and reimplement them. Nuclear reactors currently have to be placed in coastal areas due to their cooling requirements but the advent of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) make it feasible to move these reactors inland. In doing so, Labour could ship out a fleet of these faster without worrying as much about geography.

While all these reasons may seem convincing, it is also essential to the Labour Party that they don’t betray their supporters or backtrack on promises. Fortunately, deploying a new fleet of nuclear reactors would fulfil promises and have more support than one might think due to how they’re discussed.

The Labour Party is promising to include nuclear energy as part of their determined plan for the UK to use clean energy by the year 2030.

The five missions Labour are campaigning on largely revolve around long-termism and pledge to avoid “short-term sticking plaster politics”. Pursuing a more nuclear based policy would fit this perfectly.  It is undeniable that this proposal would take a while, but Labour are already prepping the British public for this by making decade long plans in these five missions.

Moreover, several promises made in their five mission documents would be aided by moving towards nuclear energy as Britain’s bedrock. Labour aims for rapid improvements in clean energy by 2030, and in doing so, actually pledges to “Get new nuclear projects at Hinkley and Sizewell over the line, extending the lifetime of existing plants, and backing new nuclear including Small Modular Reactors.”. There’s also vital infrastructure here, with the nationalised GB energy company Labour providing a perfect venue to work within. In doing this, Labour would also fulfil their promise to bring more industry to Britain by giving key construction projects for skilled British workers to contribute to.

It’s never been more important that Britain and, as such, the incoming Labour Party commit to energy security and lower carbon emissions.  The World Meteorology Organisation’s annual State of the Global Climate report confirmed that 2023 was the warmest year on record and that warming was at 1.4C – only 0.1 degrees from the Paris Agreement’s target of 1.5C. By leading a national drive for nuclear power, Keir Starmer can put Britain at the forefront of this battle against climate change while boosting both the economy and the nation’s security.

It’s crucial that Sir Starmer does so.

Daniel Woods


Featured image courtesy of Lukáš Lehotský via Unsplash. Image License can be found here. No changes were made to this image. 

For more content including uni news, reviews, entertainment, lifestyle, features and so much more, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like our Facebook page for more articles and information on how to get involved.

If you just can’t get enough of Features, like our Facebook as a reader or a contributor and follow us on Instagram.


Leave a Reply