Tories have overseen nuclear ‘renaissance’ claims Sunak – despite minister saying UK is ‘running to catch up’ | Politics News

Rishi Sunak has claimed his party has overseen a “renaissance” in the nuclear industry – just hours after one of his ministers suggested plans for the sector should have been laid out “years ago”.

The prime minister said the Conservatives supported nuclear power and the UK’s nuclear deterrent as he visited the home of the UK’s nuclear submarine fleet, Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria.

The site will get £20m of public money and £180m a year over the next decade in a move the government hopes will create more than 8,000 jobs to help the sector fill 40,000 new roles by the end of the decade.

His words come as nuclear minister Andrew Bowie admitted plans for the industry were long overdue.

He told Times Radio on Monday: “I make no bones about it, we should have done this years ago. We are running to catch up.

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“But we have just this year delivered our civil nuclear road map, we have announced our intention to build a third gigawatt project, we are investing £350m in new nuclear power to ease Vladimir Putin out of the nuclear fuels market, we are actually committed to delivering small modular reactors through our competition which will conclude this year.

“But of course this should have been done years ago, which is why we are having to take the action in the way that we are right now.”

Asked about Mr Bowie’s comments, the prime minister told reporters: “What we have seen under the Conservatives has been a renaissance in the nuclear industry and that’s because the Conservative Party is one that unequivocally backs nuclear power and our nuclear deterrent.”

Mr Sunak, whose party has been in power since 2010, accused Labour of having a “basically equivocal relationship” with nuclear power and said the party failed to invest before 2010, when his party came to power.

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Andrew Bowie on £750m nuclear investment

“If you look at what’s happened since 2010, we have green-lighted Sizewell C [and] Hinckley Point, so two nuclear power stations, we are making progress on small modular reactors and we have recommitted to our nuclear deterrent and a new generation of nuclear submarines and a replacement warhead,” he said.

“All of that has happened under a Conservative government.”

As part of Mr Sunak’s plans to usher in the “next generation” in the UK’s nuclear industry, firms such as BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, EDF and Babcock will also invest about £763m in the area.

The nuclear announcement follows rumblings of discontent within the government’s ranks over the level of defence spending, with two serving ministers recently urging Mr Sunak to increase defence spending to at least 2.5% of GDP – from just over 2% at present – “as soon as economic conditions allow”.

Foreign office minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan and security minister Tom Tugendhat said earlier this month that a “much greater pace” of investment was needed, while defence secretary Grant Shapps called for military spending to rise to 3% of GDP.

Engineering teams use the world's largest crane - Big Carl - to lift a 245-tonne steel dome onto Hinkley Point C's first reactor building, at the nuclear power station construction site in Bridgwater, Somerset. The 14-metre tall dome is manoeuvred into position on top of the 44-metre high reactor building in the early hours of Friday morning. This milestone in the construction closes the reactor building, allowing the first nuclear reactor to be installed inside. Picture date: Friday December 15
Work under way at Hinkley Point C

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Mr Sunak has said the government had already announced the largest sustained increase in defence spending since the Cold War and “recently topped up with billions of pounds to strengthen our nuclear enterprise and rebuild stockpiles”.

John Healey, Labour’s shadow defence secretary, welcomed the commitment to nuclear, in contrast with the SNP, which said the plans would “waste another £200m” on nuclear, and were “wrong priorities”.


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