STEP Powerplant illustration

Labour calls for nuclear fusion investment in energy security drive

Image credit: UK Atomic Energy Authority

The UK should “seize the opportunities for investment and energy security” that is afforded by investment in nuclear energy, the Labour Party has said.

In a letter to energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar also said the government had failed to do enough to tackle rising bills in the face of spiking oil prices.

He said his party would give Scottish residents £1,000 in support to help with the energy crisis in the short term while delivering a “green energy sprint” to tackle energy security in the longer term.

“We need answers that focus on bringing bills down long-term, as well as meeting our commitments to cut our reliance on fossil fuels and make our energy supply more secure in an unstable world,” Sarwar said.

“To do that, nuclear – and the highly paid and skilled jobs it brings – must be part of Scotland’s energy mix.

“But Scotland now risks paying the price in lost jobs and opportunities for the SNP’s unscientific and economically backward opposition to nuclear energy.”

In March, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that now was the time “to make a series of big new bets” on nuclear power as part of efforts to eliminate the UK’s reliance on Russian oil imports. But he also talked about boosting fossil fuel extraction from the North Sea which could make it more difficult for the UK to meet its climate change commitments.

Sarwar called on the government to approve the development of a proposed nuclear fusion plant in Ardeer, Ayrshire that could help the area to drag itself out of long-term industrial decline as well as provide green energy generation.

In January, the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) asked residents in five areas, including Ayrshire, to provide feedback on potential plans to construct one of the prototype nuclear fusion power plants.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said they were engaging partners of the Ardeer project to “understand more about the proposals”.

“We believe that significant growth in renewables, storage, hydrogen and carbon capture provides the best pathway to net zero by 2045, and will deliver the decarbonisation we need to see across industry, heat and transport,” she added.

“The transition to net zero will offer many new opportunities for highly skilled, well paid jobs across the energy sector for industry experts, apprentices and graduates.

“Scotland has long been the centre of expertise in energy innovation and this expertise will prove crucial as we work to capture the opportunities the transition to a net zero economy presents.

“We recognise that planning will be crucial to ensure that economic and social opportunities from the transition are not missed.

“Our National Just Transition Planning Framework sets out the consistent, ambitious approach we will take to developing transition plans.

“We have committed to delivering our first Just Transition Plan as part of the forthcoming refreshed Scottish Energy Strategy, and will work in partnership with businesses, workers and communities to ensure this provides the certainty needed for investment in our net zero journey.”

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