The civil nuclear sector supports just over 14,000 jobs in Cumbria, according to new industry figures.

The Nuclear Industry Association’s (NIA) annual Civil Nuclear Industry Jobs Map revealed that 14,213 jobs are based in the county – of which 13,045 are in Copeland, home to both the Sellafield and Low Level Waste Repository sites.

The figures puts Cumbria head and shoulders above other regions of the country – representing almost a quarter of the total 59,419 UK civil nuclear jobs recorded in the survey of NIA members.

However, the figures recorded in the summer of 2019 show a slight decline in jobs in Cumbria, and larger drops in the North West and the UK as a whole.

While year-on-year comparisons have to be taken with a pinch of salt – accounting for drop off in NIA membership, acquisition and mergers, and relocations – there were 174 fewer jobs recorded in the county compared to figures for 2018 and almost 1,500 less compared to 2017.

The Copeland constituency area saw a fall of 414, although much of the reduction appears to be as a result of Jacobs’ acquisition of CH2M in late 2017, with its Cumbrian presence dropping from 455 in 2018 to 96 in 2019.

Elsewhere, Sellafield Ltd’s county workforce grew by just over 100 to 8,935.

The biggest rise was recorded in the Workington constituency, where there were 237 more jobs, taking the total to 723. Over the past year, TSP Engineering saw its workforce more than double to 210, while the figures take into account p0reviously unlisted NIA members WYG and its 85-strong workforce based in Cockermouth.

Carlisle saw a slight rise to 259 – although the figure for 2017 stood at 301 – while Barrow and Furness saw a slight drop from 117 in 2018 to 100 in 2019. The figure for 2017 was much higher at 261.

Penrith and the Borders also saw a slight rise to 84 and Westmorland and Lonsdale a drop from five to two jobs.

In the North West the 2019 figure of 24,084 was down on 26,358 in 2018 and 28,293 in 2017. Nationally, the number of civil nuclear employees has fallen from 64,988 in 2017 to 63,816 in 2018 to 59,419 – a reduction of 4,397.

However, NIA chief executive Tom Greatrex said the jobs map – which covers disciplines ranging from construction and operations, manufacturing, decommissioning, research and development, waste management and nuclear fuel – highlighted both consistency and economic impact.

“Our detailed survey of members shows consistent employment levels between 55,000 and 65,000 over the past five years spread across the UK in both urban and rural regions,” he said.

“The nuclear sector is a great example of how it’s possible to create widespread jobs and prosperity whilst contributing to the 2050 carbon reduction target – Net Zero need not mean economic pain.

“As we progress the decommissioning of our old power stations, the development of a new fleet is critical to ensure growth of clean power and the economy. This will require proven large-scale nuclear reactors, but we are also in a better position than ever to progress small modular designs and looking ahead, the development of fusion technology.”

Appetite for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) has grown in recent years following the collapse and mothballing of large-scale nuclear projects, including NuGen’s plans for a £15 billion development at the Moorside site in West Cumbria.

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.

A consortium led by Rolls-Royce is designing a first-of-a-kind SMR, with a number of West Cumbrian companies recently showcasing their expertise and capability to support their manufacture.

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. But hopes are high that a large-scale development may yet materialise on the site adjacent to Sellafield, with the Government currently consulting on adapting the Regulated Asset Base model to support such high-cost and high-risk projects.

Mr Greatrex added: “The new financing method, currently out to consultation, can bring down costs to the consumer and attract investors and we need to move quickly to flesh out the detail.

“The focus on a zero carbon economy is creating excitement and interest in the nuclear industry for a new workforce coming into the sector via apprenticeships and graduate schemes, but it’s critical we establish the conditions for further new nuclear power station projects quickly to maintain this momentum.”

The survey of NIA members also found that there are currently 12,141 women working in civil nuclear – a similar figure to 2018. The industry has set itself a target to reach 40 per cent female employment by 2030.

Almost 2,000 people are undertaking apprenticeships and 914 are on graduate schemes.

Meanwhile, nuclear contribution towards the UK’s electricity supply fell from 21 per cent in 2018 to 19.5 per cent in 2019 according to figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, while off and onshore wind upped its contribution to just over 17 per cent.

Support for nuclear energy also remained consistent, according to a YouGov poll. Of the respondents 72 per cent supported nuclear while opposition dropped from 13 to 15 per cent, compared to a survey undertaken in August 2017.