Charles Hendry hints at reprocessing ...

Conservative energy minister Charles Hendry hinted during a visit to Copeland this week that the government may be taking a more positive view of the future of reprocessing.

He also talked about making West Cumbria one of the best placed parts of the world to take advantage of the nuclear renaissance and strongly emphasised the potential benefits to West Cumbria of the infrastructure improvements which will need to come with it.

Charles Hendry told The Whitehaven News that Billions of pounds may flow into West Cumbria, including substantial investment in infrastructure, as part of the development of new nuclear facilities.

Road improvements, transport, health and education services could all be involed, he said.

The minister was speaking on a visit to Sellafield just as Whitehaven was hosting a ‘drop in’ centre for people to give their views on underground disposal of higher levels of nuclear material.

And he said it was only right that local communities should benefit from future nuclear developments.

“We want to make this one of the most attractive places in the world for people to invest in new nuclear,” Mr Hendry declared.

A new nuclear power station around the existing Sellafield site and later the possibility of an underground repository would bring a substantial boost to jobs, enterprise and the economy.

“If new nuclear goes ahead there is four or five billion pounds worth of investment. Companies engaged in new (power station) build are emphasising to me the whole time how they want to use local skills, local services.

“Alongside this we are looking for the right place for geological disposal (of nuclear waste), trying to encourage communities to come forward, there have been three expressions of interest from local authorities in Cumbria; we are working with them to see how we can take forward that interest but there’s no doubt that in terms of marketing this is the Energy Coast which has a unique facility, a unique advantage with a whole range of energy mix.

“As a government we have a strong nuclear vision for this area which we want to help deliver so people can be part of a nuclear renaissance and not just dismantling the old nuclear legacy.”

Asked by The Whitehaven News about the prospects of investment either from the government or the private sector, the minister said:

“I know what the roads are like coming down from Penrith, Oxenholme and Carlisle, so it’s very clear if we are going to see major construction work, the development potentially of a nuclear waste repository then there’s going to need a very significant investment in infrastructure.

“We’re working very closely with the local authorities, identifying what they see as the principle needs of the area. not just in terms of the roads but also in health and education: to see how we can respond effectively.”

On new reactor build, Mr Hendry said he was delighted that Sellafield was on the shortlist of the revised list of potentially suitable UK locations.

“We will do all we can to make it possible but at the end of the day it will be commercial companies who make the decision, we’ve made it quite clear there will be no government subsidy but the companies are saying they are not looking for any, my job is to remove the potential barriers which as the planning, legal and regulatory issues.

“This (Sellafield) is a very good site, you would be hard pushed to find anywhere in Europe which has the same degree of nuclear legacy terms of skills and the interest of people trying to secure new investment. This has to be one of the most attractive locations, you’ve got a workforce which has spent a lifetime working in the sector and with younger blood coming through as well with the skills new build will require.”

Bringing together business, local communities and local authorities was an important driving force but he stressed: “What comes back time and again is the infrastructure – it will need to be improved.”


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