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Thursday, 02 July 2015

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Campaigners fight for region’s nuclear future

NUCLEAR power is the only serious low-carbon option “to keep the country’s lights on,” campaigners have claimed.

The Sellafield Workers Campaign (SWC) last week launched its manifesto for the growth and sustainability of the nuclear site – and the 10,000 people who work there.

In the document, Sellafield at the Heart of a Low Carbon Energy Future, SWC calls on the government to “maintain a clear and unequivocal commitment” to the site, and outlines how it hopes this can be achieved.

Kevin Coyne, the national officer for the Unite union who also spoke on behalf of GMB and Prospect, said: “We call upon the UK to recognise the valuable role that Sellafield plays, and will continue to play in the future. Nuclear is the only viable energy source to keep the lights on.”

The campaign is specifically calling for three main points to be addressed, added Mr Coyne.

To ensure there is nuclear new-build at Sellafield

To effectively re-use the stockpile of plutonium currently stored at Sellafield

To begin a new search into a geological disposal facility

He said: “The aim is to secure long-term employment at Sellafield, to build hope for the future, to bring in investment, and to ensure the lifeblood of West Cumbria, and Cumbria as a whole, is maintained for future generations.”

The document, launched at the Energus facility at Lillyhall, will now form the basis of discussions between SWC, the site’s management, government ministers and other bodies that make up Britain’s Energy Coast.

Further recommendations include establishing a local planning authority to have sole jurisdiction to Sellafield, increasing investment in research and development on the site, and granting the site enhanced status as the UK’s ‘National Nuclear Waste Management and Development Centre.’

Craig Dobson, the secretary of SWC, said: “This list of demands is the way forward. A high priority is job creation, and to stop the migration of young people from this area.

“It’s time for West Cumbria to be proud about what we have to offer.”

Further support for the manifesto came from Jamie Reed and Sir Tony Cunningham, MPs for Copeland and Workington respectively, as well as the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and Britain’s Energy Coast.

Mr Reed, a former Sellafield worker, said: “I have always had pride and confidence in the nuclear industry. We are at a cross-roads in the industry now, but the future has to be based on nuclear.

“If we fail to protect and nurture it, we are inviting economic collapse. The need to rebalance the economy, between the public and private sector, is never more acute than now.

“We need a forward-looking relationship between the Sellafield workers and management to deliver this.”

Mr Cunningham recalled similarities between the current campaign and the workers campaign that helped build the Thorp plant over 25 years ago.

“We have world-class training facilities here, but they are worthless unless there are the jobs for people to go on to. There is no better organisation to achieve this than the trades unions at Sellafield.”

For Sellafield Ltd, its managing director Tony Price said he was “delighted” to support the campaign.

He said: “Everyone needs to be on the same page because there is such a prize to be gained, and it’s in our hands to make this happen.

“Sellafield is a national asset with tremendous heritage, and this is one of the biggest challenges it has faced. If we get it right, the rewards will follow.”

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