Support for new nuclear energy spans the traditional right-left divide in the United Kingdom as Britain remains committed to meeting its 2050 net-zero emissions target. But investments by Chinese state-owned nuclear firms in nuclear projects threaten to undermine British sovereignty and collective security among NATO allies. To create a resilient future and to mitigate the burdens of climate change, new priorities must be set in terms of how energy security is defined.
Having already weaned Britain off coal-fired power generation – going at least two consecutive months so far without it, London is setting its eyes on cutting out all fossil fuel-fired generation next. Trying to get ahead of an expected rise in demand for clean energy from the heating and transportation sectors, Britain is also replacing its eight existing nuclear power plants with new next-generation reactors.
Ahead of the December 2019 general election, which delivered a pro-nuclear Conservative victory, Labour’s junior environment spokesperson Sue Hayman relayed research commissioned by the shadow cabinet that concluded building new nuclear energy is vital for achieving desired carbon neutrality. “We don’t want to have coal, gas is a huge challenge to get rid of and you’re only going to do that with [new] nuclear,” Hayman said.
According to a new report by the UK’s Nuclear Industry Association, an ambitious buildout of nuclear projects could ensure that nuclear continues to provide 40% of Britain’s clean power through 2050 and “drive deeper decarbonisation” through district heating and the creation of hydrogen and other clean fuels.
That support for nuclear energy now transcends traditional party politics speaks to the changes in how energy availability is understood to impact peace and prosperity across societies. In 2018, the NATO Brussels Summit Declaration identified the important role energy security plays the coalition’s common security. Since the early 2000’s, NATO has made a priority of its awareness of energy developments and sought to develop its competence in supporting the protection of critical energy infrastructure. In recent years, its focus has moved beyond improving the energy supply for the military to recognizing energy availability for the stability it provides in society.
The Emerging Security Challenges Division at NATO Headquarters can set the tone for government and private sector leaders. It highlights that a total system approach can minimize the political or economic vulnerabilities. Energy sector decision-makers must increasingly confront severe weather, water shortages, trade interruptions. Allied Nuclear represents the businesses working hard to continue to propagate the non-partisan priorities necessary to create resilient infrastructure that lasts for generations.