Sparking Investment in Britain's Energy Coast

Kieran McManamon
Sellafield's power as a local economic catalyst is illustrated by the investment plans for West Cumbria.

The nuclear energy industry dominates the West Cumbrian economy, with Sellafield's global leadership in nuclear decommissioning and recognised waste management capability providing local strength for some time to come.

The estimated £70bn decommissioning programme around the Sellafield site has already supported a substantial job, business and GVA growth, and this will be augmented by a range of new projects associated with the facility's lifetime plan.

Neighbouring businesses, many of which are engineering small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) selling intelligent products and services into the Sellafield decommissioning process, can potentially benefit from new contractual opportunities. An initial increase in employment opportunities, associated with decommissioning activity, is anticipated.

An initial increase in employment opportunities, associated with decommissioning activity, is anticipated.

However, the local economy is strongly aligned to the operation of Sellafield and its supply chain, and the decommissioning activity will in the long term lead to a rationalisation of employment. Replacement jobs will be needed, against a background of ongoing economic reinvigoration.

West Cumbria is well-positioned to support the UK's priorities around energy security and carbon reduction. Two initiatives, Britain's Energy Coast (BEC) blueprint and the Cumbria Deal proposition, have set out their visions for major energy and infrastructure investments, together with plans for business enterprise, research and development, sustainable communities, health, education and skills, and destination management.

BEC outlines a plan of £90bn overall spend in 25 years, with the aim of delivering 10GW of installed low carbon electricity generation capacity. This is complemented by the local authority-led Cumbria Deal which proposes collaboration with government to kick-start growth and increase economic potential.

Transformational activities are identified in both initiatives, which would create a more economically diverse and resilient West Cumbria. These would enable a positive environment for investment in nuclear new build and decommissioning, as well as support for growth-oriented businesses to diversify into new markets.

BEC's focus includes a targeted investment in the coastal plain area of West Cumbria, producing more than 3,000 jobs in the next 15 years, as well as increasing contribution to UK GVA levels. To mitigate the diminishing returns from the nuclear energy sector beyond 2022/2023, businesses will be encouraged to participate in the UK's emerging clean tech industries and advanced manufacturing sectors.

Proposed Investments Cumbria Deal

Given that between 40 and 60 nuclear reactors worldwide will need to be decommissioned over the coming years, there is significant potential to export Sellafield's dismantling and decommissioning skills to other global nuclear and high hazard reduction projects.

There is also an opportunity for West Cumbria to attract businesses that will benefit from being part of the local decommissioning knowledge cluster. Business innovation in related fields such as materials recycling and security, alongside the development of new fuels, would build on the local community’s scientific and technical expertise.

Nuclear new build investment in West Cumbria is a possibility, with the area strongly placed to host one of the UK's eight planned new plants. NuGen's Moorside proposal to build three AP1000 nuclear plants near Sellafield by 2024 would clearly have an enormous economic impact, bringing around £10bn in private investment.

New build benefits include attracting skilled individuals and their families into the area, creating 14,000 new jobs, new homes, infrastructure and services as well as revitalising visitor accommodation, retail, educational facilities and business and industry locations.

As a result of BEC and the Cumbria Deal, projects include Energy Coast University Technical College, Construction Skills Centre, Energus Campus, Albion Square and the £150 million regeneration of Whitehaven town centre.

New build benefits include attracting skilled individuals and their families into the area, creating 14,000 new jobs, new homes, infrastructure and services...

Faithful+Gould is committed to playing a long-term role in regional industry growth, and we are keen members of BEC Business Cluster (BECBC). We are building on our 20-year reputation as a key part of the West Cumbrian consulting and engineering community, providing opportunities for local talent and support for the local community.

Together with our parent company Atkins, we were delighted to recently open our new offices at the Westlakes Science and Technology Park near Whitehaven, the prime location for those involved in West Cumbria's nuclear supply chain and other related energy sectors.

The office provides a hub for our group staff in the north-west to continue to support Sellafield Ltd in its decommissioning activities, through the site security enhancement programme, main site control facility, and our recently secured positions on the decommissioning delivery partner 10-year framework.

With the potential expansion of both decommissioning and new build activities in the region, we anticipate a growing need for our expertise, from the energy sector, associated local businesses/infrastructure and inward investors.

Written by