The time has come to push the nuclear button

NuGen Moorside site

NuGen chief executive Tom Samson was in combative mood at the Cumbria Nuclear Conference last month.

With the fate of the Moorside nuclear reactor plan increasingly in doubt, Samson told his audience that while it had been affected by a number of factors, what hadn’t changed was NuGen’s mission or his determination.

He declared: “My commitment to Cumbria is that I will fight tooth and nail to find a solution for Moorside.”

It the vision of a nuclear power plant capable of generating up to 3.8GW of electricity – seven per cent of the UK’s electricity needs – is to become reality, finding that “solution” is vital.

The project is important for the hopes not only of Cumbria,  home to around over a third of the UK’s civil nuclear work and employing more than 27,000 people, but the wider North West and its industry-leading expertise in the sector.

There have been calls for the government to take a stake in the project and unions have questioned the reliance on overseas investment to deliver major energy projects like Moorside.

Japan’s giant Toshiba group has been looking to sell off its holding in NuGen, which has the contract to build the plant on land next to the Sellafield site on the West Cumbrian coast.

The state-controlled Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) looked to be the favourite to take the project over. However progress has been slow, with seemingly no deal in sight.

With NuGen lay-offs, The GMB union says a new Nuclear Development Agency needs to be created to make sure Moorside goes ahead.

GMB has long argued the government should take a stake in the financing of the troubled £15bn reactor plan – rather than leaving this vital project “at the mercy of foreign companies”.

Justin Bowden, GMB national secretary, said: “The NDA must be re-tasked and renamed as the Nuclear Development Authority to take over NuGen and develop a new nuclear power station at Moorside.

“As well as eradicating the uncertainty, by the government taking a stake and taking control at Moorside, the price to consumers will be greatly reduced making good all round sense.

“The NDA needs to be scrapped as it currently exists and a Nuclear Development Agency created to make sure Moorside and the accompanying creation of thousands of new jobs and apprenticeships, goes ahead.”

A cross-party group of Cumbrian MPs have joined forces to stress their support for the company behind Moorside following the continued uncertainty.

Led by Copeland’s Trudy Harrison, the six county MPs have written to KEPCO, stressing their support for NuGen and urging a commitment to the power plant.

Increasing the pressure, Harrison has organised regular Moorside Strategic Partnership meetings to be held in the community, bringing together key industry figures and government officials to push for urgent progress – the first meeting is set to take place in Whitehaven later in the autumn.

She said: “There is no doubt, Cumbria needs Moorside and the country needs new nuclear.  What is important now is that all MPs in Cumbria put politics away and work constructively to getting it delivered.

“Cumbria needs to speak with one voice, we have signed a joint letter to KEPCO and I continue to meet with other investors.”

In their letter, the MPs said: “Cumbria is the centre of nuclear excellence, hosting new build, decommissioning, training, R&D and a huge swathe of the country’s supply chain.

“We are committed to ensuring that nuclear new build can once again play a role in our county’s economy and have been working with NuGen for a number of years to support the development of Moorside.

“Since the present owners of NuGen, Toshiba, announced an intention to end investments in the worldwide nuclear market and to sell NuGen we have had significant uncertainty in our region.”

It added:  “We are committed to the development and improvement of Cumbria and investment by KEPCO in Cumbria would lead to significant investment in our region.”


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