Andy Prendergast

National Secretary

GMB

November 19, 2021

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Ep 339: Andy Prendergast - National Secretary , GMB
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Michelle Brechtelsbauer
We're here today with Andy Prendergast who is the National Secretary of the UK's GMB union. Welcome to Titans of Nuclear, Andy.

Andy Prendergast
Welcome, Michelle.

Michelle Brechtelsbauer
Thank you. So we're going to get into the GMB and the union's ongoing activities to drive progress on new nuclear build in the UK in just a bit. There's a lot to get into there. But actually I'd like to start with your kind of personal background. I'm curious how you got into this line of work and how you kind of came to nuclear energy to begin with?

Andy Prendergast
Well, I mean, technically I sort of left university many years ago as a history graduate and sat on the dole for a while. The dole is the British form of welfare, for those who don't know in America, and eventually got a job in a bank call center and became a union rep. There's not a huge amount of jobs for argumentative socialists and being a union rep was one of them. And for a long time I sort of worked in the banking industry, then moved to the GMB. And the GMB is a general union, although we have a large membership in power. And I started getting involved with nuclear many years ago when I started looking after members in Aldermaston and Harwell, which are some of the nuclear research sites in the country. And I've always found nuclear within a fascinating industry. It really is the cutting edge of technology. It's quite a divisive industry as we know, but I think a lot of it is based on, frankly, a misunderstanding of what nuclear is.

Michelle Brechtelsbauer
Did you get exposed to nuclear just by physically being near it? Is that how you learned about nuclear energy to begin with?

Andy Prendergast
Yeah, very much so. I mean, one of the things working for a general union like the GMB is you become an expert on many things that you never thought you would do. I mean, I used to look after a prawn processing plant, so I learned an awful lot about how prawns react to stress caused by tsunamis in Southeast Asia. There's always been that need to sort of pick up information as you go, and that, for me, was very much like the nuclear. So although there's always been an interest in it, it was very much through dealing with members on the ground, looking at what their problems were. And that started to give you a better picture of the real importance of nuclear to our industries and to our society, where nuclear is actually a critical part of British infrastructure. And I think one of the interesting things being on the left, nuclear does have quite, as it is, it's quite a divisive industry. But what I was finding, the more I got involved in, it was actually a lot of what we were hearing about it was fundamentally untrue. And this is an area that's safe, it's highly productive. It's a brilliant source of unionized, well paid jobs. And we as a union have worked very well with nuclear employers over the age to make sure that this is a cutting edge industry. And it's one that's good for our economy.

Michelle Brechtelsbauer
Absolutely, the communication issues around the sector are really heartbreaking, just given how incorrect they truly are. So when your union I guess was- first, maybe kind of just to understand the numbers a bit, how much of a nuclear sector - actual nuclear jobs, people who are- either working construction sites or employed at power plants or maybe even further down the supply chain - which percentage of the nuclear sector is part of the GMB? Or are there specific unions that you work with more closely in partnership as well that are purely kind of in the nuclear space?

Andy Prendergast
Well, in Britain it's largely free unions in nuclear. There's GMB, Unite, which is another large general union, and Prospect, which is a general union, but it's a general union that's very much aimed at white collar and scientists. What we tend to find is there's an approach. We have around 40% membership of the entire sector. Unionization rates in nuclear in Britain are some of the highest in the country. It's rare to find anyone on a nuclear site who isn't a member of one of the three unions and I'm pleased to say we, certainly, are the largest.

Michelle Brechtelsbauer
Absolutely, that's wonderful. I guess that would mean that you probably- the folks that are part of your union, they are the ones who understand what the correct messaging really is and drive the appreciation for nuclear within the union, but also kind of more broadly within their communities. I'm curious, kind of going back to when you first joined the union - you were coming over from looking at prawns and now thinking more specifically about nuclear on a day to day basis- - what was that journey like for you to kind of learn that there's kind of a double- there are two narratives out there. And it's really critical to get that correct narrative, just understanding all the economic implications, the job implications, but also decarbonisation and climate implications of having a clean energy supply.

Andy Prendergast
It was quite a journey. And I'll be honest with you, quite a quick journey. I took over as National Secretary around six months ago and, I'll be honest, it's been a bit of a baptism of fire. Although I've had sort of a- been dealing with the nuclear industry for the last 15 years, it was really looking at it on a higher level. And when I say at higher level, it's really understanding the vital importance to the entire economy. And particularly, with energy there's a huge amount of debate at the moment about green transition and just transition and how do we get to net zero. And it was really understanding that, without nuclear, there is no voyage to net zero that doesn't involve, frankly, people living in mud huts. And I think that's one of the key things for us, is that you start to see how it feeds into every part of industry. Being a general union, we have hundreds of thousands of members who work in heavy industry. They work in factories and they need sustainable energy sources that are going to power industry. And when we look at that for a long period, it's been very much dependent on fossil fuels. And actually, we see nuclear as being the solution to how do we actually drive this with sustainable energy? We do see a lot of money going into green technologies. As someone who obviously doesn't want the planet to burn up, I think it's very important that that investment continues. But it's understanding, actually, the limitations of these. We have a prime minister who's talking about Britain becoming the Saudi Arabia of wind power. The problem with that is - and as we found over the summer - sometimes the wind doesn't blow. When you have those times, where do we get our power? And that's where nuclear has really come into it. It's a sustainable fuel. It's a safe fuel. And actually, the costs involved- I mean, although, when we look at it, Hinkley Point, which is one of the big nuclear developments in Britain, has a price tag of 20 billion, which is massive. But at the same point, when you look at that over the lifetime of the project, actually, the cost is comparable to offshore wind. And if we need these sustainable things, we're going to drive our society forward and actually have a net zero policy, which is not only deliverable, but it's democratically deliverable. And I think that's sometimes what people miss about the move to net zero. We can do lots of things today. But actually, it's going to have to go through democracy and people want their standard of living protected. And actually, nuclear offers a way forward in doing that.

Michelle Brechtelsbauer
Yeah, absolutely, I couldn't agree more. You've touched on a couple of things there that I'd like to dig into a little bit. And we'll put a pin in kind of the large projects versus the newer projects coming online, SMRs and smaller reactors, and I'd love to kind of get your perspective and labor's kind of perspective on that kind of shift in technology. But the other thing that I certainly heard in what you were just saying is this sense of urgency I think that the union has certainly picked up on. And just looking at articles that have mentioned not only GMB, but some of the other unions you mentioned, over the past few years, this pace of recognition of that urgency has really started to pick up. So have your activities to really put pressure on politicians to come up with solutions that can actually get us to having new nuclear build sooner and so we can not just meet policy goals, but meet economic goals and democratic goals. I wonder if you can kind of touch on what that ramp up in in activity has looked like. And really, what are the biggest obstacles that the unions feel like there's room to push on and improvements to be made to really drive forward progress on new nuclear build?

Andy Prendergast
In terms of ramping it up, I mean, in Britain we have quite an interesting position whereby we have a number of nuclear power plants and all bar one are due to go offline within the next 10 years. And unfortunately, one of the problems we find in a democracy, frankly, is that the electoral cycle doesn't always help long term projects. And as we know, nuclear power is one that you need long term investment in. You need cross-party agreement to get that investment. And I think there has been a bit of a habit of governments of both sides to see this as a divisive issue which can be kicked down the road. And that, for us, is now really starting to come home to roost. If you look at it, we have two big developments at Hinkley Point, which is currently going on, and Sizewell C, which is in development processes. The problem is, even with those two new power plants coming on, we'll only be delivering around two thirds of the amount of energy we're currently delivering from nuclear. And of course, if you're looking at electricity, by 2050, the electricity use is expected to double. We're seeing more electric cars. We're seeing more electric heating. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, it's possibly for another podcast at the moment. But there is this question, how are we going to meet those goals? And I think the-

Andy Prendergast
The old AGR fleet and increase our capacity for all the decarbonisation and electrification that policy is driving us towards.

Andy Prendergast
Yeah, so we really have been identifying for the last decade that we're not having politicians making these difficult decisions. And that's something we've really been trying to push through ourselves, because they can't be put off indefinitely. And we're pleased to see that there is progress being made. But I think in Britain, we had a real difficulty with, partially by privatization, if I'm going to be honest, where the nuclear industry was effectively privatized many years ago. And what that meant is that actually in our ability to build plants and have the skills, we've actually had a break. And the break in something like basics can be disastrous. We've looked at Hinkley Point, for example. We're talking 20 billion, as I mentioned. The estimates now to replicate that would actually drop to 16 billion. If you replicate it again, it gets cheaper. By having the supply chains in place, by maintaining those skills, it gives us the long term future we need. And that's why, we as trade unions, we have been having very difficult arguments, both in the labor movement and on the British left. And it's quite interesting where the British left sits with nuclear. If you look at nuclear power and nuclear weapons in Britain, came out of the Clement Attlee government immediately after the Second World War. Now, it was the most left wing government we've ever had by a significant margin. A lot of the policies building national health care service, for example, a free to use, free to access service accessible to everyone in the country, that came from this government. And actually, there's Aneurin Bevan, the creator of the National Health Service, was actually one of the loudest voices for nuclear in this country. Our first nuclear power plant, Calderhall, which is now effectively Sellafield, the ground was broken by... who was the head of the TUC, which is our trade union umbrella body. But somewhere along the line, we went from being very pro-nuclear to quite anti. And it's interesting when you look at where that comes from. Some of it was the National Union of Mineworkers, who saw nuclear as being a threat to their members. Some of it, if I'm going to be honest, comes from, there were times when I think the British left were unduly influenced by the goings on the other side of the Iron Curtain. And that did cause quite a few difficulties. And I think what we've been trying to do is reclaim nuclear for the left. If you look at nuclear power plants, what's interesting is they used to be solid labour voters. And what's really frightening now in Britain is that it would, in England particularly, every single nuclear power plant is now in a conservative-held seat. And that was something that was inconceivable even a generation ago. And what we've been saying to Labour is, nuclear provides unionized, well-paid jobs. It supports communities and often supports communities in areas where, you take the nuclear out, and there is literally nothing left. And these communities need to have the Labour Party on-site. They need to see that there is that left alternative. And ultimately, as I said before, we're talking about something that's reliable, it's cheap, that actually can really deliver. And we're fully behind that as a union, not just for our members' jobs who are employed directly, but for those in a supply chain. And those other industries that rely on it.

Michelle Brechtelsbauer
Actually, I'd like to talk a little bit more about the nuclear supply chain in the UK, because as you mentioned, the existing fleet is kind of slated to be decommissioned by, I believe all existing or online plants from the old fleet by 2030. We only have the two plants coming online and planned to be. So that has huge implications for an incredibly robust supply chain, everything from engineering and EPC firms, but down to organizations like Sheffield Forgemasters who make specialty pressure vessels. And this is a really kind of- and then of course, we also have investment by government, right, with Nuclear AMRC, who we've also had on Titans and looking at the next generation of technologies for nuclear energy. But I'm curious kind of what your members and what the supply chain is thinking about in terms of nuclear going forward and how we can ensure that there isn't a gap between Hinkley and the next generation. That we're able to sustain that supply chain and keep, not just all those jobs, but all that expertise in the UK in the same places they've always been.

Andy Prendergast
Well, for us, that's been a real sort of driver in terms of what we're trying to do, because I mean, nuclear directly in Britain employs about 17,000 people, but there's an additional 61,000 in the supply chain. And that's before you're getting into all of the added jobs, particularly in where there are nuclear sites - the pubs, the cafes, the restaurants, the hotels - all of which basically rely on the nuclear industry to exist. And one of the problems we found is, we do actually have some sites in the country which are currently losing jobs. Springfield is an engineering firm up North. They're currently making redundancies, because there is that gap. And ultimately, we need government to fill it. We're trying to sell nuclear as a long term viable option for people and communities. And for that, and then when people are asking people to be retrained, when we're asking people to invest in their skills, they need to see it as a long term job. And the worry is, is that when those are those gaps in the supply chain, it does mean we lose the skills, we lose the workers. And it's one of the things we found with Hinkley Point, that we've effectively had to retrain an entire workforce who we used to have. And that has added exponentially to the costs. And I think one of the things we're looking at. And whether you get into the rights and wrongs of Brexit - which is probably something for another podcast, which I won't get into - it's fair to say Britain is looking for kind of a place in the world at the moment. We see nuclear as being part of that. You mentioned beforehand about some of the small-medium reactors. We've got the go ahead to build one of those in Darby. This is essentially a technology that we see as something we can own, we can export, we can build that expertise. And one of the issues with nuclear, without getting into sort of a long geopolitical debate, one of the concerns in the countries are actually where are we getting expertise from? And what are the costs of that expertise? Not just in terms of pounds, shillings, and pence, but actually what impact has it got on national security. And we believe the way around that is actually to develop our own. It doesn't mean we don't use foreign technologies. It doesn't mean we don't try and use the best of all worlds. And I think the nuclear industry has been an industry that has been superb at sharing best practice and expertise. But considering Britain had the first ever civil nuclear power plant, we want to re-own this industry. We want to get to a point where we're seen as the world leaders we were in the 1950s. And quite frankly, it's a tragedy how that entire industry has been allowed to run fallow in the long term. It's something we want to get back. And frankly, I think with the small-medium reactors, there is a real opportunity to do that. These can be powering high, heavy investment, heavy industry right across the world in a way that's safe and dependable. And if we can get ahead of that, then we see this as a big export industry which can really create thousands, if not tens of thousands of jobs, and good union jobs as well.

Michelle Brechtelsbauer
Yeah, absolutely. In the UK - and maybe we can touch upon some of the advances in SMRs going through the deployment pipeline, which I think are still a few years out - but there's still a lot of work in the development project phase that's being done for several different types of plants. Of course, there's Rolls Royce, which, as you mentioned, is that kind of homegrown industry, and I believe there are several other players that are being considered by government and that's all really exciting. One of the things that I've often heard pushback from communities - and I would say, not necessarily labor, but maybe people are thinking about nuclear as an economic opportunity, but it's not directly there to necessarily benefit them - around SMRs is, because of their smaller size, their smaller construction footprint, people often don't understand that it's just a shift in the types of jobs, right? When you think about a big build project, like Hinkley Point C, the majority of the jobs that are created by that project, because it is so large are those that are formed during that construction period, six to 10 years, thousands of people on-site. Whereas, with SMRs, roughly - let's say a tenth of the size, just to give an example - you have a smaller footprint, you have more things being produced in the factory setting. But that doesn't mean that there are less jobs just because they aren't in the field, right? There are jobs that are spread around to existing suppliers and integrators and you have good paying jobs like welding, and the type of job that you maybe want to go to every day near your hometown, as opposed to going to a construction site only for a few year period. I'm curious kind of how you all have seen that narrative be communicated, because it is a different model. And it's a different- it's a mind shift in how people typically think about old nuclear, big nuclear, and this new model that is smaller, but has a completely different delivery model.

Andy Prendergast
-geographically dispersed in a number of small areas. What you find in the likes of Sellafield, which is in the constituency of Copeland, you have massive amounts - I can't tell you a percentage - but a huge amount of the economy is either directly employed in nuclear or indirectly employed by nuclear. The good thing about that is it's absolutely vital to those communities and those communities really see the difference. I think the problem with that, though, is that it doesn't mean that nuclear is always the most attractive proposition to people. Because unless you want to go and live in some out of the way place where the majority of them are at the moment, nuclear is not necessarily a job for you, even if you have that interest in science. Unfortunately, the geography doesn't always work with you. And I think what SMRs do is that they potentially make this far more attractive. If there are a lot more of SMRs, then you don't have to go as far for a job. You can see that being a far longer term option for you. I think the other thing that's really interesting with SMRs that we've had over the last couple of months, actually, is Britain has been caught in a bit of a gas crisis. Unfortunately, our sort of short term government really ran down gas storage over the last 20 years. And what that meant is, in Europe, we've had a situation where gas prices have gone up 250% in a matter of weeks. And that's really feeding through into heavy industry. There are a lot of questions at the moment about whether government support is necessary to keep some of our heavy industry plants going for the simple reason that the costs currently make production prohibitive. There's a second problem with gas, which is a huge amount of gas in Europe is dependent on Russia. And obviously, at the moment, Russia and the Putin, there's a number of sort of geopolitical issues in getting that. And so I think more and more people are seeing that nuclear is potentially the solution to this. And when you tie in the SMRs, and also when you look at a lot of the new reactor designs that are coming through the next generation, where you're looking at variable power sources - as you know, at the moment, nuclear is very much you turn it on and it produces X amount of megawatts, you turn it off and it stops - with the next generation designs, when there is that variability, it means that when the wind doesn't blow, you can ramp up nuclear production. And ultimately, you can turn it down when the sun shines and the solar power starts working. I think what we're starting to see is a lot being seen by a lot of people as a more attractive proposition. The downside of that, if I'm going to be honest, is that because they're small nuclear reactors, some people hear nuclear, and let's be honest, it does have a bad rap based largely on one significant issue in Russia. And it's trying to get through some of that myth busting. Actually, when you look at the the safety of the industry, it's second to none. And one of the things we're particularly proud of in my union is we actually had a dispute in the 1980s that led to the acceptable radiation levels in the UK being roughly half of what they are in the rest of the world. And that was led by union members actually fighting for the better terms to make sure this was as safe as possible. We take pride in this industry. And it's almost trying to beat the curve in terms of the arguments. The problem, and we have to be honest, is to some people, nuclear will always bring visions of disaster and the rest of it, which simply are not reflective of the reality. there is going to need to be a long term approach on this. We need to slowly change hearts and minds. And that also is another big issue we have in the country, which is currently the storage issue, because we're waiting for the government, effectively, to come up with a planning policy statement on basically creating a nuclear store for the waste. Now, luckily, a lot of these new generation designs actually see a lot of waste being repurposed and able to effectively power stations of the future, which would be absolutely brilliant. But in the meantime, there is a problem in getting communities to accept that they are going to be the place where this store is going to happen. But ultimately, that's true. That's always been the case with every form of technology. And we just need the government to take the bull by the horns on that one.

Michelle Brechtelsbauer
What is the current focus of GMB and other unions who are pushing for more progress on nuclear, by government or maybe on their own? Is it around these types of longer term issues or more on the near term hurdles to existing project development or encouraging new project development?

Andy Prendergast
Well, one of the things … taking over responsibility for energy is nuclear works on a long term basis. Our first and most immediate priority is simply to get a lot more new builds agreed. Obviously, we're talking about Sizewell B, we're talking about Wylfa in Wales. But we're looking to get these actually agreed, to get the boots on the ground, get the shovel, start digging. And one of the points we're making on that is - and you mentioned Hinkley Point - Hinkley Point is the largest construction site in Europe. It creates thousands of jobs, is creating thousands of skills. We want those people in Hinkley Point to see the future, to actually think that once the role finishes at Hinkley Point, they can go to Sizewell B and go to Wylfa. For us, the key thing about it is actually get that investment, get that agreement on building new sites. Once we have the agreement on the new site, then obviously it's about making sure that the supply chain stays viable and that ultimately we're getting new orders in. That then turns into the investment in the small SMRs and really just trying to rebuild an industry which should never have been let go in the first place. That being said, we have a keen interest in the safety aspect, both for our members who work there and the communities they serve. There's an obvious issue in waste, which I think every country has nuclear has. It's not something that's been completely sold at the moment, if we're going to be honest. But I think when you're looking at the new generation reactors, it provides a way forward. And it's also, for us, I think trying to really sell this to a very active green lobby. In the very active green lobby, the heart is often in the right place, but there sometimes is that lack of genuine understanding on some of the issues. And I think what we're trying to say to people is there cannot be net zero without nuclear. It's as simple as that. And if we're serious about stopping climate change, it's going to mean that there's going to need to be some shift in position for them to accept that nuclear is part of that mix, certainly for the next century. And if actually some of the technology works the way we want it to, there's no reason why it can't go on forever.

Michelle Brechtelsbauer
Obviously, the United Kingdom is hosting COP26 this year, which is a really big event for climate change. And as the country that's hosting, there's a great opportunity really to showcase that the UK is taking a leading role in decarbonisation, not only at home, but looking towards creating industries and solutions that can be repeated and scaled globally. I'm curious if the labor movement is having a big role at COP and if nuclear is part of that conversation as well.

Andy Prendergast
The labor movement, I mean it's fair to say we have a conservative government who aren't our best friends and really never have been. That being said, it's one of the interesting things I've found that having taken the current position is the way to which a lot of conservative politicians reach out to us, because they actually see the sort of the cross approach with trade unions, with employers, with the government is actually helping to drive that forward. I mean, in terms of COP, we're more kind of the adjutants at the gates as opposed to the people around the table. And it does fall into a lot of other kind of labor disputes we have going on. There are a lot of issues with shortages in the country with inflation and pay issues and all the rest. But we are very clear that nuclear is part of the solution in COP26. We did an awful lot of work over the last few months to make sure that the position of the Labour Party, the position of the trade union, Congress have both come out and strongly endorsed nuclear. And we're trying to work both with politicians, labor, and the conservatives. And actually, in Scotland, you have a very strong Scottish National Party who effectively run Scotland in all intents and purposes and we're trying to get them on side. I'll be honest, Scottish National Party are probably the most reluctant of that and there's a lot of work to do. I don't think they understand the importance of nuclear to the country, but they have this slightly unique position of being able to basically take credit for everything good and then put the blame on anything that happens to England, or the British government, I should say. So there's still a lot of work to be done. But we are unashamedly cheerleaders of nuclear, and not just running these jobs, but because of the importance to both the green agenda and the long term economic prosperity in the country.

Michelle Brechtelsbauer
I mean, nuclear energy really is one of those, oddly - I mean, maybe it should be expected or should be obvious, but given both the US and the UK's kind of political environments that are highly polarized - nuclear just seems to be one of those issues- or topics that can just span all parties. Here in the States, if you're an environmentalist of a younger generation, you're 100% pro nuclear. If you're on the right and you're really concerned about national security or jobs or those types of things, you're also pro-nuclear. It's a really, I would say kind of unifying topic. And in that sense, it's a really kind of wonder. It's a great thing, right? Energy and these types of foundational technologies to society should be valued across society. And it's a really wonderful thing to see people who have differences in their politics are able to come together and recognize the value of this technology that not only can provide jobs and not only can sustain our economic development, economic growth, but is clean and safe, and is economically a really great investment for our future. And let alone, from a geopolitical stance, as well, I think that's a really wonderful perspective that you guys are taking and it's giving you kind of an in, I would say, to the dialogues that might be more complex to get into just because it's such a unifying topic.

Andy Prendergast
Well, I'll be honest with you, I think it's one of those things that's unifying to a point, but we have to recognize that there is still a clear problem. And I think your analysis is true, largely, but it misses one point. And it's like, we have people from the green movement, we have arch capitalists, sort of radical communists on the side with nuclear. But at the same point, I think in every grouping, you'll actually find the opposite response. From us, it's more an issue about understanding than it is about- some arguments that I think both in Britain and in the US, you can almost tell from someone's party affiliation what their views are on everything. In America, for example, if you're anti- if you're pro tax cuts, you tend to be bizarrely anti abortion and any number of things which logically don't follow. But the way the party system works means you're almost siloed into it. I think the interesting thing with nuclear is nuclear is one of those debates that actually goes beyond that. What you'll find is that those people who've actually taken the time to study the topic, those people are actually taking the time to read the research, to take the effort, to try and understand that, yes, we need to get to net zero, but how do we get it? All of those people come to the conclusion that nuclear, whether it's seen as being - when I say short term, I mean short term in terms of nuclear - whether this is essential for the next century to get us to that carbon zero position, or whether it's a long term position. I think there is that understanding. The problem - and I think this goes back historically - whether it's as a result of populism, whether it's a result of ignorance, whether it's a result of just a knee jerk position, and in some cases there are some very clever people who are against nuclear who simply look at the research and come to a different conclusion than we do, but it's one of those that transcends parties. In Britain, you'll get people on all parties who are pro nuclear. You'll get people in all parties who will be anti nuclear. And what we try to do is to basically educate. Fundamentally, the position for us is we don't want this falling into a lot of those other divisive things. It will be a disaster for the industry if it was something that simply worked on party lines, because fundamentally, the last thing you want to do is half build a nuclear power station for a change a government to simply mean you have this massive building site that's never going to get finished. There is an education process. It can be difficult with some people. Getting anyone to changed their mind in the modern days, whether it's about a vaccine or anything else, can be exceptionally difficult. But I think what we have to do is just keep pointing out the facts. And if anything, what we've seen in Britain, the energy crisis we're going through, these are really hammering home, the need for nuclear to be at the front of the debate and to be a key cornerstone of the way forward.

Michelle Brechtelsbauer
Fantastic. What I think I was really smart is the role that labor, that the unions really play here is that it's the people that kind of have come to understand energy - first of all, energy - and then nuclear energy by themselves, on their own, doing their own research, or even being part of the industry, part of the sector, or just living near different types of energy technologies. I grew up near a coal plant growing up and I knew coal was bad because of being in that environment. You hear all the time, folks that love nuclear the most are those that live next to some sort of nuclear facility, be it a nuclear power plant - maybe because of the jobs, or the fact they have clean air - or maybe a national laboratory - they got to go see a tour as a child, maybe they got to go to Springfield's and tour their fuel fab facility, and now they just think it's the coolest thing, even they don't work in it - or maybe nuclear technology saved their lives at a hospital through radiation treatment. And it's people who've had those either firsthand experiences where they've come to understand what this is on their own that are the biggest champions for nuclear. And I think that unions and labor really kind of embody that, more than most fields. I think that's really great. I'm kind of curious, to kind of elevate the conversation a little bit - and I'll ask you about your kind of positive vision for the future to wrap up - but I'd like to spend a second just hearing about some of the challenges that you see labor and nuclear really needing to overcome in the United Kingdom in the next few years to see the progress that we need, given that 2030 is just around the corner?

Andy Prendergast
Well, I mean, I think that in terms of the big challenges, as I said, one of the big ones is we need the government planning policy statement to be made sooner rather than later. And sometimes they've got to just bite the bullet and actually decide where we're gonna put that. I think in terms of SMRs and the rest of it, in the short, immediate term, it's trying to get that point about the investment. It's trying to actually get the cross-party consensus on doing it. We're making really good strides on that. There's obviously then the question about where do we develop the sites? How do we develop them? And, unfortunately, what you'll always find with any form of energy - whether it's a wind farm, whether it's a nuclear power plant, or coal power plant - people do not always want it next to them. That's the simple fact of life. And one of the interesting things recently as I went to the Peak District, which is a particularly picturesque part of the country, and part of it is this valley with this fantastic viaduct that goes through - this brick viaduct - and what was interesting is I believe the poet Wordsworth described it as a monstrosity when it was made. And now this is something that people will walk miles to go and see. Occasionally, there's almost the view that people's views change over time and what was once something ugly can now become something quite beautiful. And I think, when you're looking at nuclear, the first point is actually just to try as much as possible, to detoxify the brand, and actually, to a degree, to make sure we're having the conversations around the necessity of it. And that's what I think, when it comes back to that education process. If we're going to get to net zero, how would we get there? And the big issue - the two groups who are sort of staunchly anti nuclear or how the elements are staunchly anti nuclear - the one group we called the NIMBYs. I don't know if you have it in America, but NIMBY is short for "not in my backyard." So these are the people who will happily use all the energy that they need, but still simply view that it should be somewhere else. The second with the green lobby is actually to have this debate around what is deliverable in a democracy, what is viable as a way forward. And I think sometimes, when we're talking about the whole situation, particularly with renewables, renewables are looked at as a panacea, which there's a potential for them to become a panacea, but we're nowhere near it now. And what people don't seem to understand is a lot of the decisions. As in the UK, we've seen it with the wind stopped blowing for the entire summer, we had massive power problem. Similarly, solar power in Britain is a great idea in theory, but we'd need a lot more-probably works a lot better in California than it does in Britain. It's a bigger country, but it's a far bigger country, but we don't have that much sunshine at the best size. So it's trying to sort of have this argument. And what we're finding is, when people are genuinely engaging with, we're taking them with us. There are some people who will not get past that knee jerk reaction. But in that regard, nuclear is no different than vaccines or anything else. And I think, from what I've seen of both Britain and American society - and it's probably true for the world - is there's almost like a difference now between those people who are willing to engage in debate and those people who simply enter debates with no intention of changing their mind and will simply sort of search out the facts that effectively reinforce that position. And I think that's what we're saying to people with nuclear. If the issue is they have concerns, what are their concerns? If you look at safety, we can show it's safe. If you look at it being viable, we can show it's viable. And these are the points that we just need to make. It's an opportunity for job creation. And not just job creation, good job creation. The average wage in a nuclear industry is 75% above the national average. If you go to places like Copeland, particularly, there's a high standard of living there. And that's purely as a result of nuclear power plants. And frankly, we'd like to get to a point where actually communities are fighting for nuclear power plants, because they see the long term benefit. And that's the benefit, for us as a trade union, is a benefit for working people. And they're the ones who, fundamentally, they do all the work, they make the difference. That's what our entire movement is about is normal working people. And we think it offers them the opportunities, it offers them the skills, and it offers them a really great career where they're going to be doing something essential for the country, and ultimately essential for the entire planet if we're looking at the net zero.

Michelle Brechtelsbauer
I think that was perfectly said and probably a really great place to wrap up on. Andy, unless you have any final kind of words of wisdom.

Andy Prendergast
No, I think I'll leave that one, Michelle. It's been a real pleasure coming on. As I said, we're always really happy to work with the nuclear industry and we believe that this is a way forward and a great place for good jobs. Good union jobs as well. And that's very important. So I really thank you for your time.

Michelle Brechtelsbauer
Yeah. Thank you so much.

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