The on-going campaign to secure a clear commitment to nuclear power in the Government’s forthcoming Energy White Paper visited the corridors of power.

Representatives from the North West Nuclear Arc collaboration held a breakfast briefing with MPs in Whitehall to press home the importance of a sector of critical importance to the county’s economy.

The North West Nuclear Arc brings together businesses and public sector organisations to promote the nuclear skills and capabilities located in a vast area encompassing Cumbria, Lancashire, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, Warrington, along with Wylfa and Trawsfyndd in Wales.

It has been lobbying the Government for several months to ensure the importance of nuclear is acknowledged as a major contributor to meeting the UK’s energy needs and in meeting the net zero target of 2050.

It has also stressed the economic impact of the sector in terms of creating long-term and well-paid jobs.

Britain’s Energy Coast executive director John Grainger and the National Nuclear Laboratory’s vice president for Government and International relations, Ivan Baldwin, were among the attendees, which also included Sellafield Limited’s recently appointed chief executive Martin Chown, Copeland MP Trudy Harrison and her Workington counterpart Mark Jenkinson MP.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Grainger said: “It is important in the short term for Cumbria that the Energy White Paper, due to come out in May, acknowledges the importance of nuclear generation as a major contributor to the UK’s energy needs as a continuous baseload producer of electricity.

“In the meantime, members of the North West Nuclear Arc will lobby hard through their constituency MPs and other bodies to ensure it is at the forefront of the Government’s agenda on the future of energy provision.”

Representatives from the North West Nuclear Arc were part of a delegation that attended the recent Department for International Trade’s Civil Nuclear Showcase in London, to promote the region’s capabilities both home and abroad and push for investment.

They, along with industry leaders and politicians are hoping for clarity in exactly how many gigawatts of electricity the Government wants to see from nuclear in the Energy White Paper.

In a recent letter to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, the Nuclear Industry Association’s chair, Dr Tim Stone, branded the National Infrastructure Commission’s advice to build only one more large-scale nuclear power station after Hinkley Point C as “fundamentally flawed” due to the looming net zero target.

He also demanded a “robust financing mechanism” to support large plants following the demise of the Moorside project in West Cumbria and mothballing of others in Anglesey and Gloucestershire due to issues over financing.

A consultation over adapting the Regulated Asset Base model for nuclear is currently under consultation.

And the Government has already committed tens of millions of pounds to the development of mini nuclear power stations – Small Modular Reactors and Advanced Modular Reactors – with hopes high that Cumbria could capitalise when it comes to their manufacture and siting.

In his letter, Dr Stone added: “No country has yet deployed a fleet of small reactors, although many are moving ahead with development programmes, giving the UK a strong chance of becoming a world-leader in this technology if we act quickly.”

Dr Stone wrote to the Chancellor in advance of the Spring Budget.

Many in the industry had hoped would have included some mention of nuclear, but that failed to materialise in a Budget dominated by the Government’s response to mitigating against the impact of coronavirus.

The North West Nuclear Arc breakfast briefing took place just hours before the Budget was delivered.

In response to it, Mr Grainger, said: “It was probably no surprise in the end that the Chancellor did not refer to the contribution that large and small scale reactors will make to the country meeting its net zero targets.

“The budget statement itself was dominated in no small way, and rightly so to emergency fiscal measures designed to stimulate and support the economy, particularly small businesses, but individuals as well, particularly those employees who may have to self-isolate in the coming weeks.

“From a member perspective those small businesses that may be affected by a downturn in trade have been offered a range of beneficial options to help safeguard them through what is currently an unknown period of uncertainty.

“The Cluster, in line with others, has a specific web page signposting help and advice through Government websites and stands by to assist its members as much as it possibly can.”