Cumbrian companies formed the core of a high-profile delegation to promote the North’s skills and capabilities to deliver a new generation of nuclear power.

Businesses including TSP Engineering, Westlakes Engineering and PacTec and supply chain organisation Britain’s Energy Coast Business Cluster were part of a Northern Powerhouse delegation which took part in the Department for International Trade’s Civil Nuclear Showcase.

They joined representatives from Sellafield Limited, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, National Nuclear Laboratory and International Nuclear Services at the event held in London on Tuesday and Wednesday.

NP11 – which brings together the North’s 11 local enterprise partnerships – and the North West Nuclear Arc consortium – a collaboration which includes BECBC – joined forces to outline the economic and social impact of new nuclear development in the region to investors and Government policy makers.

The delegation of 50 pressed home the case for the region to become a world-leader in Small Modular Reactors (SMR), which are smaller and easier to produce and finance than large scale nuclear plants.

Sites in Cumbria are being actively targeted by a Rolls Royce-led consortium currently designing a first-of-its-kind SMR, while Cumbrian businesses have been heavily promoting their skills and capabilities to support its manufacture.

Workington-based TSP Engineering is also looking to design its on small reactor, with the aim of creating 1,000 new jobs.

The delegation also stressed the key role the development of the technology could have on securing and creating high-value jobs in remote coastal communities, as well as the significant contribution it could make in helping the UK to meet its net zero target of 2050.

The predicted global export potential of SMRs stands at around £250 billion.

BECBC executive director John Grainger said: “West Cumbria and its nuclear assets are a huge global player in terms of remediation and legacy clean up, and some of the innovations that the supply chain have utilised leading to time reduction and cost savings were some of the achievements showcased by Sellafield Ltd and others.”

“This reinforces the message that we have world class companies who can provide competitive solutions for decommissioning and tackling high hazard areas in retiring nuclear reactors.”

David Levene, strategic coordinator at NP11, added: “The Northern Powerhouse is home to more than 75 per cent of the UK nuclear industry’s workforce and almost half of country’s nuclear energy is produced here. It is truly the core of our nuclear sector.

“If the Government truly wishes to level up the towns and cities across the North, it should continue to support both the programme and the wider nuclear industry here.”

The annual event was attended by nuclear industry representatives and investors from around the world, despite certain travel restrictions in place for the key nuclear markets of China and South Korea due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Government’s minister for business and industry – and nuclear sector lead - Nadhim Zahawi MP gave a keynote address.

Investors, both the in the UK and overseas, are being actively targeted by the North West Nuclear Arc, which brings together businesses and public sector organisations to promote the nuclear skills and capabilities located in a vast area encompassing Cumbria, Lancashire, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, Warrington, along with Wylfa and Trawsfyndd in Wales.

In November last year it signed an MOU with similar collaborations elsewhere in the UK in a joint pledge to promote the UK’s nuclear assets to investors and deliver socio-economic opportunities to communities where those assets are based.

Dr Rebecca Weston, co-chair of the North West Nuclear Arc and chief operating officer at Sellafield Ltd, stressed the “key role” of nuclear and the North in meeting the UK’s energy needs.

“Despite the country making a welcome move towards zero carbon by 2050, and the production of cleaner, cheaper energy, based on current predictions, the National Grid will still require a 50gigawatt baseload requirement which can’t currently be met by renewable sources alone,” she said.

“Next-generation nuclear energy remains the greenest way to meet that shortfall. The North has the fusion of skills, infrastructure and nuclear-licensed assets to deliver it.”

The conference comes ahead of the publication of the Government’s hotly anticipated and much-delayed energy whitepaper.

Industry leaders and politicians are hoping to see a clear indication of how many gigawatts of electricity the Government wants to see provided by nuclear, following the collapse of NuGen’s plans for a new power station at Moorside and the shelving of similar sized plants in Wylfa and Gloucestershire.

Speaking on the White Paper recently, Copeland MP Trudy Harrison, said: “The Government agreed a Nuclear Sector Deal and has gone on to commit many millions towards the development of both advanced and small modular reactors.

“It has, at the highest levels, reinforced the need for nuclear; my priority is paving the way for Copeland and Cumbria to benefit from its renaissance and for our young people in particular, to be ambitious about their future in the industry.”