The launch of a consultation into funding large-scale nuclear power stations and an £18 million Government investment into the development of small modular reactors has been welcomed in Cumbria.

Amid the unveiling of new Conservative leader and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the Government announced the start of a consultation on a proposed Nuclear Regulated Asset Base (RAB) model to fund large power stations and support for the development of smaller and less expensive equivalents.

The two issues have been keenly watched in Cumbria, with both Britain’s Energy Coast Business Cluster and Copeland MP Trudy Harrison, welcoming the latest developments.

The consultation on adapting the RAB model for large nuclear power stations, which will finish on October 14, follows a year-long review by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The RAB model – which has already been used in the UK to finance electricity, gas, telecoms and transport infrastructure – sees a regulator set a fixed sum for the cost of a project along with a fix return for the project’s investors, paid for by the consumer.

It was the Government’s preferred way of supporting NuGen’s plans for its Moorside power station development in West Cumbria. But its introduction mid negotiation between NuGen owners Toshiba and Korean utility Kepco, appeared to cause delays which eventually led to the scrapping of the £15 billion project.

And experts believe that adapting the RAB model to support new nuclear is still years from being completed.

Meanwhile, appetite for small modular reactors (SMRs) continues to grow in the wake of the collapse of Moorside and shelving of the large-scale Wylfa Newydd and Oldbury developments in Anglesey and Gloucestershire respectively, due to eye-watering up front costs.

The Government says it will invest up to £18m to support a consortium led by Rolls-Royce, which is designing a first-of-a-kind SMR. The consortium – which includes the National Nuclear Laboratory, Wood and Nuvia – has proposed a significant joint investment of more than £500m in the project and aims to secure the remaining money from its own funds or from third party organisations.

A working model is expected to be up and running in the early 2030s, creating 40,000 jobs at its peak, with each power station producing enough energy to power 750,000 homes.

John Grainger, executive director of Britain's Energy Business Cluster welcomed the RAB consultation, which he said “opens up the possibility of revisiting” large scale new build at Moorside, which remains a site designated for nuclear development.

“The realisation that within the low carbon agenda that nuclear generation can be at the forefront of the energy mix reawakens the opportunity for West Cumbria making a significant contribution to energy security in the UK as an acknowledged clean energy source,” he told in-Cumbria.

“Whilst we must rightly manage expectations about the opportunity at Moorside, the utilisation and acceptance of the RAB model will offer up secure investment opportunities to a range of potential investors, representing a paradigm that has already been demonstrated as a successful and prudent investment vehicle for major infrastructure projects in this country.”

Mr Grainger said the Government’s investment in SMRs was “an acknowledgment of the importance and need for this type of generation to complement existing power providers”.

“The inherent skills in our indigenous Cumbrian Supply Chain offer excellent capability in the development of modular reactors,” he said.

“We have capacity and know how that should make the area very competitive as varying types of reactor technologies are evaluated and then brought to the market for deployment.”

The announcements were also welcomed by Trudy Harrison, the Conservative MP for Copeland.

“This is good news for nuclear, both small and large-scale,” she said.

“It is the culmination of many months of research and demonstrates Government’s eagerness towards supporting nuclear energy.

“The Government target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 has focused minds, to do this we will need nuclear as a hearty part of our energy mix in addition to renewables.

“The escalating tensions in the Gulf reinforces the urgent need for UK energy security. Nuclear is tried, tested and in the UK trusted, and in Copeland we are rightly acclaimed and celebrated as the Centre of Nuclear Excellence.”

The Government has also announced a further £40m through the Advanced Modular Reactor (AMR) programme and is currently considering project bids.

AMRs differ from conventional reactors, which use pressurised or boiling water for primary cooling, and aim to maximise the amount of off-site factory fabrication.