Future Developments at Sellafield
I believe this country needs a balanced energy policy, which should make full use of nuclear power, renewable energy, and reducing waste of energy from all sources.
I was very pleased when Tim Yeo promised that if the Conservatives win the election, a decision will be made on whether to commission a new generation of nuclear power stations within a year of the election. If Britain is to continue have a nuclear industry, we do need a decision in the near future, or we will have abandoned nuclear power by default. And for areas like West Cumbria the uncertainty is very damaging.
I would like to see one of those new power stations at Sellafield. Obviously we have to take account of the limitations of the existing national grid and what can economically be done to improve it. I am advised that it would be difficult to upgrade the grid sufficiently to deliver the output from a 1000 MW reactor such as the AP1000, but many people connected with the industry consider that it would be economic to build an AP600 reactor at Sellafield.
This reactor delivers 600 MW - equivalent to ten million domestic lightbulbs, and also of the same order of magnitude as every single wind farm we currently have in the UK.
The current profile of employment in Copeland is as follows. Far and away the largest employer is Sellafield. Next is the NHS, and the future of West Cumberland hospital is still under review; it has been agreed that we need a district general hospital in West Cumbria but the location has not yet been decided. The next two largest employers in the consituency are the Borough and County councils.
In other words the area is economically completely dependent on the nuclear industry. I genuinely believe that it is in Britain's interest on environmental grounds to keep nuclear power as one of our sources of energy: there is no doubt that it would be an economic disaster for West Cumbria if any other decision is taken.