CALLS are growing for the Government body tasked with the Sellafield clean-up to do more to develop a vision for the sprawling site’s future.

The nuclear plant is one of Cumbria’s biggest employers, and council chiefs told representatives from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority that a “socio-economic plan” was “essential” to tackle the huge challenges ahead.

The NDA said this week that its mission ended when its clean-up targets were hit and the site is ready to be handed over to the community, but councillors and industry insiders disagreed.

The comments came as it emerged that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce the building of small nuclear reactors (SMRs) in sites across the North, including Cumbria.

The move could put Cumbria at the vanguard of a new nuclear renaissance despite the collapse of the Moorside project, raising questions of Sellafield’s and its workers’ possible involvement in the £500m scheme.

Chiefs on Copeland Council’s nuclear panel told the NDA they had an “obligation” not only to oversee the decommissioning process but to attract businesses and investment to the site.

Councillors want to stop the expected “brain drain” in the next five years and to build on the skills of the workers, with the future re-use of the site regarded as key to this.

Councillor Steve Morgan, chairman of the council’s Strategic Nuclear and Energy Board (SNEB), set out some of the possible uses of the site including the manufacture of SMR fuel and the developing radio isotope energy.

He told the NDA that it had “obligations” to the people of Cumbria over and above simply cleaning up the site itself.

And while he welcomed the NDA’s ‘Mission Progress Report’ published last month as a “great first step”, he stressed that more needed to be done to work out Sellafield’s future commercial uses.

He said: “What are you going to do with the facilities once they’re cleaned up? What are you going to do to market the facilities to the land and the people, and to utilise the staff?

“Sellafield is a tremendous gem, a huge national resource. It’s wonderful that it is being cleaned up, but we also need to figure out what we are going to do with it afterwards – and it won’t be to grow potatoes.”

Other panel members agreed that the NDA’s Mission Progress Report was “missing” a key “socio-economic element”.

Councillors wanted to know more about the creation of business opportunities on the site, future operations and the price tag of continuing to store materials for the MoD.

They also sought assurances that the site’s highly-skilled workers would be re-trained for future roles in the region and that  Sellafield would re-developed “piecemeal” during the decommissioning process.

Other possible uses for the site suggested at this week’s SNEB meeting included a re-processing plant for spent submarine fuel and processing the site’s many thousands of tonnes of asbestos.

Kelly Anderson, stake-holder engagement manager at the NDA, stressed that the community would get to decide what happened to the sprawling site when they had hit their clean-up targets. But Coun Morgan said: “It’s not enough to say ‘it’s clean and you’ll figure it out’. What we need to do is develop with the community with local businesses and big international businesses those things that we could use the site for.

“You can’t clean the buildings up and, after you have knocked them down, say ‘have a nice life’. This is a partnership.”