Cumbrian business have pushed their case to support the manufacture of an innovative new nuclear reactor which it is hoped could be located on the vacant Moorside site.

Representatives from Shepley Engineers Ltd, TSP Engineering and Britain’s Energy Coast Business Cluster (BECBC), which has more than 300 members, were among the businesses to showcase their expertise and capability to multi-national engineering company Rolls-Royce.

In July the Government said it will invest up to £18 million to support a consortium led by Rolls-Royce to design a first-of-a-kind Small Modular Reactor (SMR).

SMRs – as the name suggests – are smaller than their equivalents in large-scale nuclear power stations, can be constructed off site before installation, and are cheaper to manufacture.

Appetite for the technology has grown in the past few years following the collapse of the NuGen’s £15bn large-scale development at the Moorside site adjacent to Sellafield, and the shelving of two other similarly sized projects in Wales and Gloucestershire over the eye-watering up-front costs involved.

And Copeland MP Trudy Harrison and Copeland Borough Council have both vowed to up the ante on lobbying the Government to push for SMRs in Copeland, with Moorside an obvious location as a site already earmarked for nuclear development.

Mrs Harrison said: “We want nuclear to be the clean energy of the future to meet our target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“We have got everything on our doorstep here to push forward with SMRs – the expertise, the skills, the knowledge and the capability. The meeting was hugely productive in how West Cumbria moves forward with SMRs.”

Copeland council’s portfolio holder for nuclear, Councillor David Moore, added: “We recognise that Copeland is at the heart of nuclear and we need to understand what the requirements are for possible sites in Copeland to be able to accommodate new SMR reactors.

“But we also need to understand what is required for manufacture because West Cumbria is one of the places in the UK that could be involved in the manufacture.”

The meeting took place at Westlakes Science Park and was also attended by Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership and nuclear business Wood, who along with the National Nuclear Laboratory, and Nuvia, are part of the Rolls Royce-led consortium.

The consortium itself will invest more than £500m in the project, using money from its own funds and third-party organisations, and aims to have the first working model up-and-running in the early 2030s, creating 40,000 jobs at its peak. They say each power station developed – which would roughly be the size of one-and-a-half football pitches – will generate enough energy to power 750,000 homes.

Alan Woods, director of strategy and business development for Rolls-Royce, said: “Our small modular power station’s affordable, flexible and investable design can help contribute to this community’s bright future, just as it can across the north of England, Wales then to other nations around the world who wish to decarbonise heat and power, and tackle climate change.”

On the potential for Cumbrian involvement in the project, he added: “West Cumbria is recognised as being a world-class centre of nuclear expertise and the breadth of attendees showed why that’s the case.”

The potential for SMRs at the Moorside site were flagged following the demise of NuGen’s plans in November, although the technology has been kicking around for longer.

Many working in the industry believe SMRs are now the most likely development at the site adjacent to Sellafield. However, the Government’s progress on developing a new funding model to support new large-scale nuclear power stations has brought renewed optimism among some for a similarly-sized development.

NuGen’s development would have generated seven per cent of the UK’s electricity needs and created thousands of jobs during both construction and operation. It collapsed a few months before Horizon Nuclear Power shelved its plans for power stations at Wylfa Newydd, Anglesey, and Oldbury, Gloucestershire after talks between its owners Hitachi and the UK Government over funding support for Wylfa Newydd broke down.

Currently only one of six nuclear power stations which the Government hoped would replace the nation’s existing fleet, much of which will end operations in the 2030s, has reached construction phase in the shape of Hinkley Point C in Somerset.

A new Government Energy White Paper is set to be published soon, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson having pledged his support for a “nuclear renaissance”.