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Thursday, 17 April 2014

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Nuclear reaction saves day

NOBODY was prepared for the devastation the floods caused when they struck in November.

But the communities of Workington and Cockermouth quickly responded to what had been thrown at them – and as one of the region’s largest employers the nuclear industry formed a key part of that response.

Working closely together, Sellafield Ltd, its parent body Nuclear Management Partners and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority formed a partnership which played, and is continuing to play, an instrumental role in the recovery.

And all three organisations provided support on the ground, with project management and communications staff being released from their usual duties to support the flood recovery programme.

Here, we tell the stories of how each of the nuclear partners responded.

Sellafield Ltd

As West Cumbria woke to the unimaginable devastation caused by the previous day’s deluge Sellafield Ltd was already planning its response.

Managing Director Bill Poulson was keen to help in any way possible, but recognised the need to work closely with the NDA and NMP. In the early stages of the crisis communications support was most crucial, and members of the Sellafield Stakeholder Relations team were on hand to help.

Sellafield Ltd’s head of media relations John Reynolds and Brian Hough, NDA communications manager for Sellafield, helped out at police HQ in Penrith as worldwide media coverage gathered pace.

The pair also went into local authority offices over the following week to offer help and support from the nuclear industry.

Sellafield Ltd’s stakeholder relations manager Howard Rooms provided a vital link into the local authorities and flood relief centres as the crisis unfolded.

Media relations officer, Karl Connor, who was also dispatched to help manage the media on the ground, said: “There were so many journalists and camera crews arriving from all over the world. The local authorities needed some support and we were more than happy get involved.

“The problems people were facing were huge, but what shone through for me was the reaction from the locals.

“I was helping look after the media on the Friday at the Sheep and Wool Centre where there were several pensioners facing a second night away from home, and many of them didn’t know if they even had homes to go back to.

“But there were no tears, there was no complaining, people were just helping each other out. It was testament to the human spirit and made me proud to be a Cumbrian.”

As the recovery moved on, Sellafield Ltd provided and is continuing to provide project management expertise.

Tom Gilroy, from Sellafield Ltd, is managing on the ground. He said: “It has been hard work, but very important and very rewarding.

“After the cameras and TV crews left. the hard work really began. It is a major rebuilding job, but it is very rewarding and I'm happy to have been given the opportunity to get involved in it.”

Sellafield Ltd managed the nuclear supply chain response, ensuring that support from companies such as Sir Robert McAlpine’s, Balfour Kirkpatrick, Amec, Stobbart’s and Laing O’Rouke, was used most effectively.

Speaking on behalf of the nuclear partners (Sellafield Ltd, NDA and Nuclear Management Partners), Sellafield Ltd Managing Director, Bill Poulson, said: “The nuclear industry is very much a part of West Cumbrian culture.

“We have 10,000 on the site currently and there are so many more who have either worked there in the past, who will work in the future or who have friends or relatives connected to us.

“When something like the floods happens in this region it happens to us – to our workforce, to our relatives, to our friends and to our neighbours.

“So we have responded in the way any relative, friend or good neighbour would.

“In partnership with our customer the NDA, our parent body NMP, and our supply chain, we co-ordinated the industry’s response to get the maximum benefit and ensure that the help, both financially and in terms of other support, went where it could be most effective.

“Sellafield Ltd, NMP and NDA have given that assistance and we will continue to do so.”

NMP

As the severity of the floods became apparent, NMP general manager Graham Campbell and head of socio-economics Gary McKeating recognised that NMP could assist through its ownership of
Sellafield Ltd and access to large numbers of skilled workers at the site. After speaking to MPs Tony Cunningham and Jamie Reed, and with the leaders of Copeland and Allerdale Councils, Elaine Woodburn and Tim Heslop, NMP offered immediate support.

Tony, who was on the ground in Cockermouth, expressed his wish to open a flood support fund and NMP offered to kick-start the fund with a donation of £50,000.

With time of the essence, Gary came up with the idea of using the existing Cumbria Flood Recovery Fund, held by the Cumbria Community Foundation, which had been set up following the Carlisle floods of 2005. Tony immediately agreed and began to promote the fund on radio and TV.

Deb Muscat, acting director of Cumbria Community Foundation and the steward of the separate £500,000 per year NMP Community Fund, reactivated the fund and, after NMP got the ball rolling,
donations quickly started coming in.

She said: “The Cumbria Flood Recovery Fund has so far raised £1.8m.

“Being able to launch the fund with NMP’s £50,000 within hours of the flood striking is a key contributor to this fantastic total.

“We are in no doubt that the immediate promotion of the fund by the partners on local and national TV and radio helped bring in donations from all across the UK. Having the NMP donation also meant that we could start paying out emergency grants within four days of homes being flooded.”

NMP’s response was a measured one. They took a co-ordinated approach with the other nuclear funding partners,
Sellafield Ltd and the NDA.
“This involved not only the action of handing over money but, more importantly, forming a strong collaboration to maximise the effectiveness of the assistance being offered.

Gary said: “On the Tuesday following the floods, I was driving to a flood recovery meeting at the Cumbria Community Foundation offices in Dovenby and I picked up a hitch hiker just outside of Workington.

“The hiker was a man called Duncan Munro from Cockermouth, who had been flooded out of his house and was walking back home to see the damage.

“His story was so distressing I took him to the CCF offices where staff helped him fill in forms for the Flood Recovery Fund. He was one of the first recipients of assistance from the fund and we are still in contact – so I know that what we are doing is making a real difference to people.”

NDA

The NDA were able to help by offering both personnel and money for the fund.

Brian Hough, their stakeholder communications manager for Cumbria, was quick to offer his services to the Gold Command which had been set up in Penrith to manage the response.

Brian said: “At challenging times it is important that we maximise the expertise we have and from my job prior to joining the NDA I had previous experience of being involved with the Carlisle floods and issues such as the foot-and-mouth crisis.”

“In fact it was during that weekend that I spoke to the local councils to establish what other help the nuclear partnership could provide. That was where the idea of a project management team arose. On the Sunday we identified key individuals from Sellafield and the NDA who we thought would be ideal and released them from their current jobs. They were quickly brought up to speed for the task in hand and from the Monday began to provide advice and support.”

That work continues with the team, based locally in Cockermouth, matching the need on the ground with the many offers of support received from individuals and organisations. The team is now building detailed work programmes with the various agencies and recovery groups.

The NDA quickly matched NMP's £50,000 donation to the community fund on behalf of itself and its two nuclear sites in the county, Sellafield and the Low Level Waste Repository, and added financial support to the pre-Christmas Open for Business campaign.

Currently the NDA is also looking to fund community projects that cannot be funded through normal routes.

Brian said: “There will always be projects that don’t fit other funding criteria but would a great boost to the local community.

“We are keen to help where we can and the project team is actively identifying particular needs that we may be able to help with. They aren’t the big ticket items but smaller community based work that will help get community life back on track and provide a much needed morale boost.

“As a local industry, with many of our staff directly and indirectly affected, we wanted to help as much as we can. That support has come in many ways and as a partnership we will continue to be involved in supporting the long term recovery effort.”
 

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