The Government must support new nuclear power – but only to sustain and not grow the industry, an influential select committee has said.

The bold conclusion was among a series of recommendations made by the Science and Technology Committee in a report on clean growth, as the Government grapples will the challenge of meeting its legally-binding target to eliminate all CO2 emissions by 2050.

The committee piled the pressure on the Government to find a suitable finance framework for nuclear new build by the end of the year, and to back new “value for money” projects in a bid to replace the UK’s ageing nuclear fleet.

It was one of ten priorities – along with 10 key areas of shortfall in Government policy – which the committee believes should be tackled if the UK is become Net Zero in a little over three decades.

They include bringing forward the date of its proposed ban on the sale of new ‘conventional’ cars and vans to 2035 at the latest; greater incentives for energy efficiency home improvements; a clear plan of action on carbon capture, usage and storage; clean growth regulation of the energy market and more support for local authorities.

Incentivising the removal of greenhouse gases and boosting funding for the research, development and demonstration of greenhouse gas removal technologies is another key recommendation.

And while it believes the Government should give more support to solar power projects along with onshore wind – a controversial issue in Cumbria – its recommendation for nuclear’s role has been welcomed in the county.

“The Government must make a decision on the future finance framework for new nuclear power by the end of 2019,” the report said.

“Subject to value for money, the Government should seek to support new nuclear power generation so as to sustain, but not grow, the UK’s nuclear power industry. It must anticipate any gap in future generation capacity such a policy would cause and support sufficient renewable power alternatives to fill the gap.”

The Government is currently consulting on adapting the Regulated Asset Base (RAB) model – which has already been used in the UK to finance electricity, gas, telecoms and transport infrastructure – to financially support large nuclear power stations.

The consultation, which finishes on October 14, comes after the model was floated as a way to salvage the £15 billion Moorside nuclear power station in West Cumbria prior to its demise.

Britain’s Energy Coast Business Cluster – which has more than 300 members of which the overwhelming majority are involved in the nuclear sector – welcomed the report.

Its executive director, John Grainger, said: “It is no good us pontificating about the need for working towards a net zero carbon community – we need more positive action.

“Communities such as Cumbria must take the lead and demonstrate how nuclear and renewable industries working together can be an exemplar of what must be done in a positive vein to tackle the challenges of climate change.

“Specifically on nuclear we need to ensure that the current fleet of power stations which are due in most part to retire by 2030, must be replaced by similar provision, and we must preserve at least that current mix of clean power output that gives the latency required to deliver a secure and stable electricity network.

“The RAB model could deliver cost reductions to large scale power infrastructure projects, but importantly the development of next generation advanced technology through small modular reactors could supplement the nations increased demand as we move to a greater dependence on electrification, particularly for travel.”

The Science and Technology Committee report also highlighted areas of Government policy that need to be addressed to meet Net Zero.

It said the Government had frozen fuel duty for nine years in a row while bus and train fares have increased year-on-year; closed feed-in tariffs for low-carbon power generation; and excluded onshore wind and large-scale solar power from financial support mechanism available to other renewable power technologies.

Changes to business rates on solar panels in 2017 was costing SMEs, schools and hospitals thousands, it said, while the Government’s new White Paper on ‘The future of the energy market’, due in early 2019, has still not been published.

The Government had also failed to announce a replacement for the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, which is due to close in 2021, it continued, and was yet to launch a consultation on changes to building regulations that had been promised this year, after cancelling its 'zero-carbon homes' policy in 2015.

Kate Garratt, vice chair and clean growth lead on the committee of the Institute of Directors’ Cumbria branch and director of The Herringbone Consultancy, said the report “can leave us in no doubt about the necessary direction of travel for UK policy when it comes to changing our infrastructure to tackle climate breakdown”.

“In the move towards net zero, widespread decarbonisation touches every industry, every company, every employee and every consumer,” she said.

“As directors and company leaders in Cumbria we have a golden opportunity to identify where best our contribution lies and grasp the growth opportunity that comes with this move. The shift is happening so let’s crack on or miss out.”