Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Nuclear fission: in one word, Labour’s shadow energy secretary shafts shadow chancellor’s progressive energy stance

In just one word of support - “Moorside”- Labour’s  Shadow Secretary for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Rebecca Long-Bailey MP, ,  speaking at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton on Tuesday, undermined the progressive energy policy outlined by her colleague, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, in his own keynote speech to the same conference on Monday (“The Energy Transformation is happening now!”, 25 September; http://drdavidlowry.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/the-energy-transformation-is-happening.html).
Long-Bailey, in stressing the importance of investment in “our energy, transport and digital infrastructure to make it fit for the 21st Century, told the conference: “When we promised to take the radical action needed to tackle climate change, and ensure that 60% of our energy comes from low carbon or renewable sources by 2030. To support projects like Swansea tidal lagoon and Moorside nuclear plant.” (http://press.labour.org.uk/).
In backing the Moorside new nuclear station in Cumbria, on a site adjoining the  Sellafield nuclear waste plant, she also aligned herself with the discredited former Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary Sir Ed Davey, who backed the go ahead for new nuclear plants during the Coalition Government, and the most extreme right wing anti-EU Tories, who hate deals with  European industry, but accept with acclamation nuclear plants being built by bankrupt nuclear vendors Westinghouse from the US and Toshiba in Japan, funded by inward investment from the Chinese Communist State Investment Bank.
Last week, the Daily Telegraph reported (“China mulls Moorside nuclear rescue deal to deepen roots in UK plants,” 19 September 2017; www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/09/19/china-mulls-moorside-nuclear-rescue-deal-deepen-roots-uk-plants/): “China’s state-backed nuclear company is hoping to take an equity stake in the troubled £10bn Moorside new nuclear project being developed by debt-hit Toshiba.The Japanese conglomerate is on the hunt for a project partner to safeguard Europe’s largest planned new nuclear plant after France's Engie abandoned its support of the venture in the wake of Toshiba’s spiralling financial woes.China General Nuclear (CGN) confirmed that it is in the running to shore up the 3.8GW project in exchange for an equity share, in a move which would also deepen its stake in the UK’s nuclear ambitions.”CGN told Reuters “We are willing to utilise our experience in nuclear design, construction and operation for more than 30 years to support the development of Britain’s nuclear industry. ” CGN thus  joins another foreigh firm outside the EU - South Korea’s Kepco-  which voiced an interest in the project earlier this summer.
The Telegraph noted  “South Korean state-backed utility has harboured an interest in Moorside since 2013, but said it would want to use its own nuclear design rather than one made by Toshiba’s Westinghouse nuclear business. Westinghouse plunged into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US earlier this year after amassing losses of $9bn (£6.6bn) for Toshiba due to a string of struggling US projects.
A lengthy approval process by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) would  be required of a Kepco reactor design,  which could derail the 2025 start date by at least two years.
Shortly before the Labour Conference started, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, n an interview, for BBC Points West, said he would not rule out a Labour government pulling the plug on Hinkley Point C unless the nuclear power station was "already built and in operation". Asked whether Britain's new nuclear power station should go ahead, Mr Corbyn said: "You have to look at the strike price, you have to look at the long term implications of it. The government has not yet concluded on that."
But when asked whether he would pull the plug if Labour came to power after the station had been built, he said: "If it's already built and in operation then of course not., adding “"But I do want to see, I must say, a much greater diversity of electricity generation." (“Hinkley cancellation? BBC on line, 22 September 2017; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-41359590)
Meanwhile, at a fringe meeting at the conference on Monday night, a former shadow business and  energy secretary, Clive Lewis, who was fired from the front bench for voting against activating Brexit Article 50, attacked the vested interests of the big industrial unions in their support for nuclear over renewables. (“Labour's Clive Lewis accuses nuclear unions of being 'voice for big business': Corbyn ally says unions are failing to speak up for renewable energy because they do not have members in that sector;” Guardian, 26 September 2017;https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/sep/26/labours-clive-lewis-accuses-nuclear-unions-of-being-voice-for-big-business)
Lewis, a political  ally of  Mr Corbyn, claimed trade unions that are involved in the nuclear industry have become “a voice for big business” because they have been weakened in other sectors, and  he singled out GMB for being too close to the nuclear lobby and said it was not speaking up for renewable energy because it did not have members there.
Lewis told the Labour Energy Forum  fringe event: “One of the problems with where trade unions are at the moment is that they have been so weakened that I think they have become, and have been used by big business as, a voice for big business.
“Because big business understands that if you have a unionised workforce they also become spokespeople for you. They create a situation where you have a wide and broad spectrum politically of people supporting your particular position.
“On nuclear, yes, GMB and other unions are staunchly supporting it because the jobs there generate union members. Contrast that to the highly self-employed solar sector: the unions have no trade unions there. They are not speaking up at all for them.”
He said unions had thrown their weight behind plans for Hinkley Point C, the first new nuclear power plant to be built in the UK for 20 years. 
“That is one of the reasons that a big song and dance and hoo-ha about solar wasn’t made by the unions and yet they are getting staunchly behind Hinkley,” Lewis said.
Ms Long-Bailey is thus backing pro- nuclear policies backed by big union dinosaurs, by discredited Lib Dems and right wing anti-EU Conservatives, very uncomfortable  bed fellows indeed.

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