New build for Cumbria – Maybe

The odds on a new nuclear power plant being built there shortened considerably after US nuclear company Westinghouse unveiled firm plans to build three of its AP1000 reactors.

The project is potentially worth £5bn, making it the biggest private-sector investment ever seen in west Cumbria.

Westinghouse expects 6,000 jobs to be created during the construction phase plus 1,000 permanent jobs once the reactors are finished and further employment every time one is refuelled.

New build is likely to bring contracts for firms such as Bendalls, the specialist engineering firm in Carlisle, which has a track record of supplying the nuclear industry.

And Rob Johnston, chief executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, is confident that the economic benefits will spread beyond west Cumbria and the nuclear supply chain.

He said: “The massive amount of money flowing through Cumbria will be an absolute game changer.There will be an influx of people from other parts of Cumbria and beyond to take up highly-paid jobs.Those people will need accommodation and they will spend their money on shops and services. Cumbria’s infrastructure – road, rail and the port of Workington – will have to be improved. There is a real opportunity in north Cumbria for getting in investment that will change the area for ever.”

Westinghouse’s announcement follows the decision of its Japanese parent company, Toshiba, to buy into the NuGen consortium that has an option to develop a nuclear power plant on land at Moorside, Sellafield.

Toshiba is acquiring the 50 per cent stake of Spanish energy company Iberdrola and part of the stake owned by the French energy company GDF Suez, giving it a 60 per cent holding in NuGen.

NuGen had previously said it was carrying out site investigations to see if Moorside was suitable for reactor development and that it would decide next year whether to proceed.

Westinghouse says the final decision will come in 2018 but the answer is likely to be ‘yes’.

Simon Marshall, the company’s UK project director for new build, said: “The site investigations have not yet been completed but the work done has given us confidence to go ahead and buy a majority stake in NuGen.”

Construction of the reactors would start in 2020 with the first coming on line in 2024.

When complete, the power plant would supply seven per cent of the UK’s electricity.

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