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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Initial work to start on nuclear new-build

PREPARATORY work on the £5billion Moorside nuclear power station project near Sellafield is set to start in a fortnight after one of the energy companies involved denied it was pulling out of the development.

Spanish energy giants Iberdrola and GDF Suez (France) form the NuGen consortium which plans to build the new electricity-producing reactors.

A report in The Sunday Times that the Spanish company was pulling out has been strongly refuted. An Iberdrola spokesman told The Whitehaven News from Madrid: “We have not pulled out. An investment decision will not be made for three years and relevant studies are on-going to enable us to make that decision.”

He added: “While what was said in The Sunday Times was pretty forthright, it was not substantiated in any shape or form.”

A NuGen spokesman said: “We have been told directly and forcefully that both our parent companies are 100 per cent committed to the Moorside project.”

Nugen also told The Whitehaven News that borehole drilling is scheduled to begin before Christmas to test whether the site is suitable for building nuclear reactors.

Intervention from gas and electricity regulators Ofgem has paved the way for NuGen to finally access the site and for drilling to start but apparently no building can take place until mineral rights owned by Lord Egremont are purchased.

NuGen has predicted a £9billion investment for West Cumbria if the power station goes ahead, but any decision to withdraw at this stage would deal a major blow to the Britain’s Energy Coast blueprint designed to transform the area’s economy.

BEC chairman Brian Wilson told The Whitehaven News: “We’re assured at the highest levels that the [Sunday Times] story is not true and that Iberdrola are still very much part of the NuGen consortium.

“In the current economic climate, not least in Spain, it is perhaps inevitable that this kind of speculation should occur. However, I am acutely aware that until work is under way, it is open to any particular participant in nuclear new build to have second thoughts.

“This might act as a wake-up call for all branches of government which have an input into the nuclear new-build programme. A greater sense of urgency is required.

“Companies which are committed to very large investments are entitled to some reasonable assurances and certainties about the market they will enter when these power stations are eventually built.”

Mr Wilson, an ex-Labour energy minister, has said previously that “cutting the first sod” at Moorside holds the key to a £90billion investment all told through West Cumbria’s Economic Blueprint.

Copeland MP Jamie Reed said: “There is no doubting the commitment of NuGen to develop a new nuclear power station at Moorside. If additional investors are required then I’m confident that this can and will happen. West Cumbria needs new nuclear and the UK needs it.

“National and local government must seize the nettle and get on with it.”

Sellafield Workers’ Campaign spokesman Steve Nicholson said: “Reports of NuGen’s death are premature. NuGen have confirmed their commitment to new-build is rock solid – that will do us.”

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