Monday, 30 November 2015

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New nuclear plant at Sellafield is 'once-in-a-lifetime' opportunity, conference told

The money flowing into Cumbria’s nuclear industry exceeds the amount spent on staging the London Olympics – and there is still more to come.

John Stevenson photo
John Stevenson

The Cumbria 2012 and Beyond conference in Carlisle heard an upbeat forecast for the county’s economy, and the nuclear sector in particular.

Welcoming delegates, Carlisle MP John Stevenson said: “We have a game changer for the county.

“Construction of a new nuclear plant [at Sellafield] would give a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform our county, providing growth right across Cumbria.

“By 2025, the county would be a very different place.”

Sean Balmer, commercial director of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, said that investment at Sellafield had risen from £0.97bn a year to £1.7bn since the authority had taken over in 2005.

That was equivalent to the annual amount spent in London in the run-up to this summer’s Olympics.

The figure could double if plans for a nuclear power station, a new Mox reprocessing plant and a geological waste-disposal facility come off.

Mr Balmer said: “Add all that up and we’re talking about a Nuclear Olympics.”

The challenge, he added, was to keep a big slice of that money in Cumbria by ensuring local businesses have the skills and capability to win supply contracts.

Steven Szostak, the recently-appointed chief executive of Britain’s Energy Coast, was equally upbeat.

He said: “I’ve never come across such a significant commitment from an industry.

“There is a huge amount of cash investment going in to revitalise the economy.

“My job is to make sure that money sticks in Cumbria.”

Despite the optimism, the investment is not guaranteed.

Local authorities in west Cumbria are due to decide in January if they want to stay in the running to host a geological disposal facility. If they agree to carry on, a study will be carried out to find out if anywhere in Copeland or Allerdale is suitable for a waste repository.

The NuGen consortium is also due to decide by 2015 whether to go ahead with a new power station at Sellafield.

Around 130 movers and shakers from the private and public sectors attended Cumbria 2012 and Beyond.

The event on Friday was run by Dods, the Parliamentary publisher, in association with Britain’s Energy Coast.


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