Confirm the future of Hartlepool nuclear energy, GMB Union urges Government

Hartlepool Nuclear Power Plant Credit: EDf Energy

Unions have called on policymakers to provide greater clarity on the future of nuclear energy in the North East.

Hartlepool was confirmed as a 'designated nuclear site' in the Government's 7 April energy strategy, which promises more investment in nuclear energy. But the town's existing EDF nuclear power station is due to cease production in 2024.

While the GMB Union welcomes the Government's commitment to nuclear energy, they are asking for clarity on what the 'nuclear site' designation will mean for Hartlepool.

"At least the government has finally woken up to what GMB has been saying for years: new reactors are the only way we can secure the UK's energy security, and there can be no net zero without new nuclear," said Hazel Nolan, GMB Regional Secretary.

"But a clear commitment by the Government to build a new nuclear reactor in Hartlepool would have been levelling up in action. Instead, local workers and communities will be left facing uncertainty at a time when the country is facing a cost-of-living crisis and our energy security is a matter of national security. 

Workers at the plant Credit: EDF Energy

"After years of dither and delay, it’s time to get on with it and put spades in the ground in the North East."

Decommissioning the Hartlepool site has been planned for many years and will be a lengthy process even once it begins.

'Defuelling' is set to begin in the March of 2024 - a roughly five-year process that ceases electricity production. It will then take many more years to fully decommission the existing plant before any possible new one may be built.

The Government says its energy plan "will ensure the UK is one of the best places in the world to invest in nuclear", adding that its £120 million Future Nuclear Enabling Fund will help support new nuclear investment projects.

An EDF spokesman said: "Hartlepool is one of the best locations in the UK for the new generation of nuclear power stations, such as advanced modular reactors and small modular reactors.

"Not only does it have highly-skilled staff at the existing power station, it is also right in the middle of a heavy industry corridor that has ambitions to decarbonise – providing the clean power and steam to enable that to happen will be critical."

A Government spokesperson said: “Nuclear energy is a key part of our energy security strategy and will provide the energy required to keep the lights on even when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.

“The UK already has eight sites designated as potentially suitable for nuclear power - Hartlepool is one of them. To facilitate our ambitious deployment plans, we will develop a strategy for where our future nuclear sites will be located.”