Regeneration organisations in Cumbria have welcomed the Government's support for a new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK.
West Lakes Renaissance, the urban regeneration company for Furness and West Cumbria, and Cumbria Vision, the economic development agency, both stressed that West Cumbria should be considered as a location for a new power station.
John Hutton, Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform announced that the Government would streamline the planning process to encourage private sector firms to build the new stations. He told the House of Commons that new stations would most likely be located at or near existing nuclear power stations.
The nuclear industry is the biggest in the West Lakes area and a new nuclear power station at the Sellafield site is seen as key to the economic survival of the county.
The regeneration partners have published a £2bn investment plan under the banner Britain's Energy Coast which includes:
- A National Nuclear Laboratory
- University of Cumbria expansion into West Cumbria
- Nuclear Academy North West
- A new £310m acute hospital, with research and teaching facilities, specialising in toxicology, radiation and epidemiology
- Enterprise support for local businesses and enterprise training in schools
- Improvements to schools and the establishment of new academies
- New and improved employment sites
- New tourism facilities, including a hotel in Whitehaven
- Improvements to the marinas in Whitehaven, Workington and Maryport
Rosie Mathisen, director for nuclear opportunities at West Lakes Renaissance and energy adviser for Cumbria Vision, said: "West Cumbria is ready and willing to step up its contribution and play a full part in meeting the challenges facing the UK's energy production – in terms of both climate change and energy security.
"We already boast a globally recognised base of skills and expertise in the nuclear industry and have an ever growing reputation in other sources of energy production, ranging from off shore wind farms to gas and oil.
A review has been carried out by Amec on the potential challenges facing new build at Sellafiled – where 36% of the UK's nuclear energy is generated. It confirmed that whilst Sellafield is a strong contender for siting new build, it has a number of commercial disadvantages, particularly the lack of a 400KV line and the need to obtain planning consents.
Mathisen added: "Removing the uncertainty associated with the 400 KV connection is the most important issue for West Cumbria to work out with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Government and the National Grid".
"On the other hand, Sellafield presents a number of advantages for utilities in their siting decisions, not least, strong public and local Government support for new build and our exceptional nuclear skills base.
"West Cumbria will be working proactively and collaboratively through its political leaders to mitigate the key areas of risk and to ensure that the site is given high profile."