A new £200 million deal between the nuclear industry and Government which aims to drive down the cost of new nuclear power stations and decommissioning programmes, has been roundly welcomed in Cumbria.
The landmark Nuclear Sector Deal, unveiled by Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark, pledges to drive down the cost of new build by up to 30 per cent by 2030 and reduce the cost of decommissioning and waste management by 20 per cent.
Other high-profile pledges agreed by leading businesses and Whitehall, is to have a 40 per cent female workforce by 2030, investments in advanced manufacturing and skills, and help for supply chain companies to win work in the UK and overseas.
It also promises support for innovation, skills and supply chain clusters through Local Enterprise Partnerships in key regions, including Cumbria.
The county is the birthplace of the world’s civil nuclear industry and is home to around a quarter of the UK’s workforce.
Home to Sellafield and its £2 billion a year decommissioning programme, Cumbria is also earmarked for a new nuclear power station at Moorside in West Cumbria.
The Government said it aims to reduce the capital cost of new build – seen as the industry as its major stumbling block – by considering different financing options, a pledge welcomed by the NuGen, the consortium behind the £15bn Moorside project.
Its chief executive Tom Samson welcomed the deal and stressed NuGen was “fully committed to demonstrating the competitiveness of nuclear as an integral and essential part of the UK energy mix”.
He added: “The deal also contains important commitments to ‘Place’ within our industry and Cumbria has an important role to play as the centre of nuclear excellence within the UK, with our deep roots in decommissioning and supply chain expertise, as well as the exciting prospects that new build will bring to the region.”
Negotiations are currently taking place between NuGen owner Toshiba, Korean utility Kepco and the UK and Korean governments over Moorside, which would be built on land adjacent to the Sellafield site, has the potential to generate around seven per cent of the UK’s energy needs.
Kepco was granted preferred bidder status to acquire full control of NuGen at the end of 2017, with a Kepco official recently quoted as saying they hoped the deal would be completed by September this year.
NuGen is a member of the Nuclear Industry Council (NIC), which has worked to secure a deal which will now be developed in to an implementation plan to ensure its objectives are delivered.
Another member of NIC is the National Nuclear Laboratory, whose chief executive Paul Howarth, who welcomed the deal as an opportunity for “innovative and disruptive thinking”.
Chairman of Britain’s Energy Coast Business Cluster (BECB), Ivan Baldwin, said the deal was “exciting news for Cumbria, which by any measure is the UK's leading nuclear region and home to a fantastic resource of expertise and talent”.
Highlighting the pledge to export more of the UK’s nuclear capabilities and expertise overseas, he added: “For BECBC, this is consistent with our efforts to engage with international markets and partners. This year has seen relationships developed with Japan, Spain, France and South Korea and we’re encouraging our member companies to build on these connections.”
BECBC’s Shadow Board of 18 to 30-year-olds from its member companies, also welcomed the deal’s commitment to skills and diversity in helping to develop the next generation of the nuclear workforce.
The Nuclear Sector Deal will form part of Cumbria’s emerging Local Industrial Strategy, demonstrating the importance of the industry to the county’s economic prosperity, said Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership chief executive Jo Lappin.
She welcomed the focus on innovation, research and development and support for supply chains and more foreign direct investment in to the county.
She added: “Now that the deal is in place, we also expect that Cumbrian projects related to the nuclear sector and supported by the LEP will get some extra benefit when the government is allocating transport funding.
“The coastal rail line upgrade and Whitehaven relief road, which are both closely linked to the nuclear sector, are two obvious examples.”
Meanwhile, Copeland MP Trudy Harrison has backed the Women in Nuclear (WiN) Cumbria branch to achieve the tough target to increase the female nuclear workforce, which the deal aims to increase from the current level of 22 per cent to 40 per cent in the next 12 years.
Claire Gallery-Strong, who heads up the WiN Cumbria team, said: “With strong Government support we will reach the challenging yet achievable target.
“WiN UK has had over 60 companies, including many in Cumbria, sign up to our Industry Charter, which sets out commitments and actions in support of addressing gender diversity. We hope that many more will work with us to build a diverse workforce will provide the innovation, energy, and ideas the industry needs to fuel the ambitious growth plans laid out in the Nuclear Sector Deal.”
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