HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By South Holland and the Deepings MP Johns Hayes
When Britain’s first nuclear power station, Calder Hall, opened in 1956 it was a vision of the future; the first civil nuclear plant in the world symbolised the possibilities of a new atomic age where energy could be cheap, clean and plentiful.
Speaking at the plant’s opening, Her Majesty the Queen spoke of how “this new power, which has proven itself to be such a terrifying weapon of destruction, is harnessed for the first time for the common good of our community.”
Sadly, over the subsequent decades Britain lost its position as a pioneer of this technology. Public confidence was damaged by accidents in America and later Chernobyl, and indecision by Government further delayed the commissioning of new nuclear plants.
Today, nuclear makes up around a fifth of the energy generation that powers our homes and workplaces. However, many of our existing nuclear and coal power stations are due to be decommissioned in the coming years, and so ensuring our future energy supply is a key national priority.
That’s why we should welcome this week’s news that the first nuclear power station for a generation will be built at Hinkley Point C in Somerset. Aided by Chinese investment and a partnership with EDF, it’ll be Britain’s first reactor since the building of Sizewell B began in 1988 and the first ever built without state funding.
Hinkley Point C, which could be up and running by 2025, will generate electricity to 6 million homes for 60 years. It will create 25,000 jobs and provide a huge boost to the economy, estimated to be £40 million each year, with many British firms benefiting from supply chain contracts.
The Government is right to support nuclear energy - as we move to a low-carbon future, we must make the necessary investment which keeps the lights on by ensuring our energy supply for decades to come. It would be foolish to assume that intermittent renewables such as wind or solar can alone provide the reliable sources of energy that our nation needs. Nuclear is one part of a mix of electricity generation – including coal, gas and renewables – that we need to ensure Britain is never dependent on just one source.
Let’s not forget, too, that this deal shows international confidence in our economy, demonstrating that the UK is recognised abroad as a strong country to invest in.
This week’s nuclear deal boosts Britain’s industry, provides jobs and skills, and provides the clean, affordable and secure energy on which families and businesses can rely. It’s time to live the vision the Queen foresaw 59 years ago by harnessing this power for the common good.