We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
I am grateful, Mr Deputy Speaker, for the opportunity to speak in this debate, which is important for our country, for my constituency, and, indeed, for Cumbria. I thank the Secretary of State for his very positive comments, his clear pride in our country, and his pioneering ambitions, which I share.
The fourth industrial revolution will indeed bring much transformation, particularly in the green energy sector. I was pleased to hear reference to development and routes to market. The industrial strategy, the nuclear sector deal proposal and the northern powerhouse strategy all support the case that in future this country will require much more electricity for power, heating, lighting, and, increasingly, electric vehicles. The Government’s Gen III nuclear new-build programme at Hinkley Point C, Wylfa, Moorside, Sizewell C and Bradwell will only just meet the anticipated electric vehicle requirements of 18 GW of generation. By 2030, the total capacity required of the UK network could rise to over 150 GW, and with over 20% of our electricity currently provided by ageing, soon-to-be-decommissioned reactors, new-build on a grand scale is essential.
I absolutely agree that we need an energy mix. Last year, records were broken, with 15% of UK electricity provided by wind turbines. Nearly a quarter of all investment in European wind turbines took place in the UK. However, renewable energy, by its very nature, is intermittent. Renewable energy has lower energy density, requiring more sites to meet a given level of demand, and the plant sites are highly dependent on location. I therefore welcome the Government’s recent investment to boost nuclear fusion research at Culham in Oxfordshire with a further £86 million to set up the technology platform at the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority’s science centre. I also welcome the £56 million investment in research and development funding for new advanced modular reactor technologies, along with the launch of the next phase of the nuclear innovation programme, which is to include ambitious plans for reactor design and safety engineering, security and advanced fuels, helping to bring down the cost of new nuclear.
The UK nuclear new-build economy is worth around £75 billion. Globally, the nuclear new-build economy is worth around £1.2 trillion to 2035. To give that some context, it’s a heck of a lot of money. I do not want to give Members a maths lesson, but if we were to spend £1 million every day, it would take 3,285 years—indeed, to the year 5303—to spend that amount of money. To capitalise on that huge global economy, our industry and Government must collaborate. I commend the nuclear sector deal proposal, which refers to the need for financial and policy support to bring down the cost of new nuclear, to create the pipeline of projects, including large-scale generation plants and small and advanced modular reactors, and to reuse existing nuclear licensed sites.
The nuclear industry in Copeland has provided highly skilled jobs, electricity and worldwide recognition of excellence for more than 70 years. Being the first in the world to generate electricity comes with the early skills and knowledge in how to decommission—a key market for the UK, with vast potential across Europe and beyond. I see great potential for improved collaboration between civil nuclear and nuclear defence, and there can be no better area than the western coast of Cumbria for that collaboration to happen.
The legacy challenges being met at Sellafield, the low-level waste repository and the ground-breaking research and development taking place every day in the National Nuclear Laboratory, the Dalton Nuclear Institute and the 70-something nuclear supply chain companies in my Copeland constituency alone are world-leading. I have had the great privilege of visiting all those companies, which employ the 27,000 nuclear workers in Cumbria—around 40% of the country’s entire nuclear workforce.
Those skills and the products are being developed to deal with the incredible challenges in difficult working environments, but they are not realising their true value to this country and to UK plc. We are not yet delivering our industrial strategy potential. Virtual reality technology, robotic vehicles and amphibious robotic vehicles are being developed in my constituency and used across our armed forces and in many highly regulated environments. I want the pioneering spirit and ability to reverse-engineer complex systems to be further developed, with better support for companies to retain their intellectual property and explore export opportunities. We are anticipating Moorside and confirmation of the successor submarine programme, Dreadnought, to be built by BAE in my neighbouring constituency to the south, in Barrow.