New nuclear power heralded at Conservative Party conference

NNWE this week attended the Conservative Party conference at which a number of energy events had been organised with contributions from the various energy ministers and MPs with an interest in energy.

tory-conf-photos-2From a nuclear point of view, much of the discussion centred around the Government’s recent Hinkley Point C decision with firm statements from ministers, including the Prime Minister, of support for new nuclear. At the NIA and Bright blue think tank events, the new Energy Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe  re-iterated that nuclear must continue to be an important part of the UK’s energy supply and that the recent Hinkley decision was a huge boost of confidence for the UK industry. She highlighted that although there had been questions raised over the price we will not really know whether it was a good deal or not for many years to come.  With regard to the decision-making process the Minister said that it would have been better not to have to rely on overseas investment but in 2016, that was the only game in town.

She was strongly backed up by Energy Select Committee member, James Heappey who praised the investment in jobs and a renaissance in nuclear skills. He was positive about any foreign investment so long as the UK retains sovereign independence. He also saw a massive opportunity for SMR development in the UK and predicted that the next generation of large nuclear will be the last as SMR becomes more viable .

tory-conf-photos-1The positive nuclear sentiment was matched by two other MPs at a Respublica event, Carlisle’s Jon Stephenson and Richard Graham from Gloucester both with nuclear power interests in their constituencies. Graham, when questioned about overseas investment made the point frequently put forward by NNWE’s Tim Yeo that it would not be in China’s worldwide investment interests to be seen to use their investment in a strategic energy asset as some sort of threat to the host nation. Stephenson added that he hoped to see a more coherent energy policy emerging as the UK has had 14 Energy Ministers and 10 Secretaries of State since the mid-1990’s which has made for poor long-term planning.

Along with support for new nuclear from the Shadow Energy Secretary Barry Gardiner at the Labour conference (albeit peppered with doubts about the Hinkley financial deal) and the Hinkley final go-ahead itself, UK new nuclear has finally enjoyed a positive couple of weeks. The SNP conference next week is less likely to be so positive but at least their doubts on nuclear are priced into overall sentiment. With the news that Scotland is importing fracked gas from the US maybe questions over the SNP’s continued anti-nuclear stance will be raised at their conference…