The Government has underlined its commitment to the nuclear industry and reaffirmed plans for a nuclear waste repository, almost certainly in west Cumbria.

Energy Minister Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe hailed a “nuclear renaissance” when she addressed the Office for Nuclear Regulation Industry Conference on Tuesday.

She said: “It feels like we are seeing a renaissance in the nuclear industry.

“With the recent signing of the Hinkley Point C contract, a clear signal has been sent – nuclear will continue to play a significant role in our future energy mix.”

In a reference to NuGen's plans for a power plant at Moorside, Sellafield, she added: “We’re going further, with proposals to develop 18GW of nuclear power across six sites in the UK.”

And she underlined the Government's determination to ensure UK companies win high-value contracts from nuclear new build.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe was only appointed in July and wasted no time in seeing Sellafield, making her first visit in September.

She said: "At Sellafield, we have removed the entire bulk stocks of nuclear fuel from one of the legacy ponds – this represents a 70 per cent cut in radioactivity content at that 68 year old pond.

“It’s our policy permanently to dispose of our higher-activity waste in a geological disposal facility, considered the safest and most secure option.

“We’re currently delivering the actions set out in the 2014 Implementing Geological Disposal White Paper ahead of launching a new siting process in 2017.”

A previous attempt to establish an underground repository for high and intermediate-level waste in west Cumbria was halted in 2013 when Cumbria County Council vetoed the process.

This time the Government will have the final say.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe also praised the role of the National College for Nuclear due to open at Lillyhall, Workington, next autumn.

She said: “We need to make sure that the nuclear fleet of the future has a highly-skilled pool of talent.

“Which is why establishing the National College for Nuclear was so important."