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Dianne Richardson, CEO, Britain’s Energy Coast Business Cluster, comments on Cumbria’s ideal position to support the UK’s drive towards Net Zero and the need for energy security

“'Industry insiders say Britain needs six to eight new big plants and 30 to 40 smaller ones if it is to meet its net zero target by 2050' (Oliver Shah, Sunday Times). As talk around the net zero target and the need for energy security increases, Cumbria, the ‘Centre of Nuclear Excellence’, stands ready to contribute its expertise to national endeavors once again.

Today, we have an opportunities rich environment for Cumbria to both host new nuclear power plants (of all sizes) and to position as part of a global supply chain and acceleration of innovative technologies. Historically, Cumbria has always been understood as an area steeped in nuclear history and capability. With an ever more acknowledged gap between UK energy needs, the drive to decrease our reliance on gas power plants and the incapability of solar and wind to deliver consistent power the case for a consistent baseload of clean energy through nuclear power, is now being acknowledged nationally.

Britain’s Energy Coast Business Cluster members offer the complex and diverse capabilities needed for a resilient nuclear supply chain. Through our work with our partners on the Invest in Cumbria Alliance we are also drawing in investors and developers to maximise the social value delivered to support the government’s Levelling Up agenda.

Energy industry experts point out that plans for a large nuclear plan in Anglesey via BECBC members Westinghouse and Bechtel, added to Hinckley Point C and the potential Sizewell C plant by EDF would still leave a sizeable gap between the UK’s needs and the projected energy production.

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A supply chain such as the one we have in Cumbria understands the high standards required in the nuclear industry and can play a part in supporting developments both inside and outside Cumbria as the UK nuclear sector rises to meet these challenges.

With identified nuclear sites at both Moorside and Fellside, a local community who understands the nuclear industry and a history of delivering “First of a Kind” solutions from Calder Hall, the first nuclear power station in the UK, to fuel re-processing facilities at Windscale, Cumbria is ideally placed to help drive both innovation as well as consistency and security for the nation’s energy needs.

At the same time, the Invest in Cumbria Alliance, a partnership of public, private and third sector organisations, launched in Carlisle on 17th September and saw Tom Sansom, the Chief Executive of the UK-SMR programme, sign a charter committing to working in partnership with the local community in Cumbria to deliver meaningful social value from any potential UK-SMR development in the county.

Having all these elements together in one place provides an opportunity for Cumbria to become the UK’s leading cluster for the development of modular and advanced nuclear technologies, from build to export via the docks at Workington. This includes Rolls-Royce SMR production, the High Temperature Gas Reactor for hydrogen production and the world’s first commercial fusion power station - STEP, built on a proposal recently submitted by Cumbria LEP.

Cumbria has always stepped up in times of national need and is now perfectly placed to do so again.”