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Friday, 01 August 2014

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Conference tells of hopes – and fears – for Sellafield

SELLAFIELD unions have painted two possible futures for West Cumbria – one to uplift the area through nuclear renaissance but the other a threat of decline and stagnation.

ceconfnuke
Nuclear Future: Q&A panel Todd Wright of Sellafield Ltd, Stephen Henwood of the NDA, Mike Clancy, deputy general secretary of Prospect, and Martin Koffel, of URS Corporation

Aptly the unions chose West Cumbria’s major West Cumbria Futures Conference held at Energus last Friday to present two completely opposite scenarios.

Captains of nuclear industry, business and community leaders heard a hard-hitting presentation delivered by the Sellafield Worker’s Campaign which was launched last August after the closure of Sellafield’s Mox plant affecting 800 jobs.

The conference was organised by three nuclear unions – Prospect, GMB and Unite – under the banner of TUSNE, trades unions for safe nuclear energy.

Prospect representative Peter Clements outlined what the unions believed were two possible futures for Sellafield.

Despite the early optimism of nuclear power renaissance, Mr Clements pointed out: “Regrettably not one sod has been cut in the construction of any new nuclear power plant in the UK – to say the least we are frustrated by the lack of progress.

“And nowhere is this lack of progress more evident than at Sellafield. The NDA’s decision on the Sellafield plant has been the only announcement that has led to real live action – closure.

“All the good intentions (NuGen, Mox 2, the Prism fast reactor, and the MRWS public consultation about an underground waste repository) are just that so far.

“What’s real for is that we are in a state of decommissioning – that has been the situation for over eight years.

“Despite all the good intentions, unless things change dramatically we see a future dominated by decommissioning, by decline, run down, redundancies and closures.

“Career opportunities will shrivel to a few hundred armed security guards whose job will be to protect a ghostly site with its highly radioactive waste.”

Mr Clements then switched to the alternative (positive) prospect: a more optimistic and vibrant future for Sellafield and West Cumbria – a future involving nuclear development as well as nuclear decommissioning.

Just for starters was a new nuclear power plant, a new Mox plant, a new and secure nuclear waste repository.

And these would be the foundation for a thriving 21st century West Cumbrian economy.

“With such a future,” he predicted, “there will be thousands of highly skilled and scientific job opportunities well into the next century. If these three projects were given the green light without any further delay it would lift the cloud of gloom that hangs over our region.

“Such major projects would also be a much needed boost to the UK economy in steel, construction, and engineering.”

He added: “West Cumbria could be at the heart of this nuclear renaissance,with new jobs and new prosperity in industrial communities all across the UK.

“However, the time for talking is over – it’s time for action.”

Energy minister Lord Marland struck an upbeat tone.

He said: “This part of the world is so suited to nuclear activity because it knows how to deal with difficulties in the nuclear future.

“It is absolutely fundamental that we as a government work very hard to send out a clear message and set out clear legislation for people to invest.”

He recognised West Cumbria’s skills base – skills that were very marketable in a global market – adding: “Sellafield is a centre of excellence, we have to be at the cutting edge of that excellence.”

The chairman of the NDA Stephen Henwood spoke about the next generation of nuclear workers.

He said: “We need to be sensible about what it is we are planning for and make sure that all of us in the nuclear family are playing our part to make sure we are doing what we need to do and get the right peopled with the right skills.

“I think we are doing an awful lot of the right things. What | struggle with is... have we got the quantity right? We are doing all the right things but have we got the right numbers for what we need.”

For Sellafield, managing director Todd Wright pointed out: “The other important thing is starting early. It is showing the promise of a career in this industry, how rewarding and important it is and that it is worthwhile.”

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