The leaders of 12 major unions representing workers in the nuclear sector said in an open letter that Cop26 is a chance for policymakers to choose emission-free energy, good jobs and sustainable prosperity – and that means choosing nuclear power as part of a balanced energy system.
They said too often, climate activism and discourse has ignored nuclear and muted the voice of the people who rely on it. “People are crying out for practical solutions to the climate crisis, ones that offer real hope in a green economy,” they wrote in the letter.
They said the nuclear issue is the subject of a political debate, but there is no scientific debate because every serious expert analysis confirms that the world needs nuclear to hit net zero.
The letter was signed by figures including Gary Smith, general secretary of the GMB Union in the UK, Helene Lopez, secretary general of the CFE-CGC union in France, Lonnie Stephenson, international president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in the US, and union leaders from Belgium, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Canada.
The union bosses said they agreed that the world needs more clean, reliable and affordable energy that would provide quality employment for their members.
In Europe, France and a number of other member states have lobbied intensely for nuclear energy to be part of Europe’s sustainable green taxonomy, but its inclusion has been resisted by other countries, including Belgium and Germany, which are phasing out their nuclear plants.
The European commission is preparing to release the second part of the taxonomy, which determines what activities are sustainable and therefore eligible for stimulus cash directed towards the EU’s goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.
European commission president Ursula von der Leyen said recently that the EU needs nuclear power and gas as stable sources of energy while it manages the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Her comments came following a summit of the bloc’s 27 member states after which French president Emmanuel Macron also spoke on the nuclear issue, saying, “never before has such clear and broad support been expressed for the need to use nuclear energy to achieve our climate goals”.
Mr Macron recently announced that by 2030 France, which generates a bigger share of its electricity from nuclear than any other country, must be a leader in carbon-free power production with one small modular reactor in operation and nuclear plants used to produce clean hydrogen through electrolysis.
The UK government recently announced funding of £1.7bn in the Sizewell C nuclear power station project as it pushes to reach a final investment decision within three years and begin a programme of new-build that will replace the nation’s aging reactors.
Three projects – Wylfa, Moorside and Oldbury – have either been cancelled or shelved, largely because of financing problems, while Bradwell remains in the early technical stages.
Twelve of the UK’s 13 current nuclear reactors, representing approximately 85% of nuclear capacity, are scheduled to close by 2030. Although Hinkley Point C is under construction, additional nuclear is likely to be needed in a low-cost 2050 electricity system, Mr Hands said.