The importance of nuclear

In this year’s budget, Alistair Darling stated a commitment to cut carbon emissions by approx 30% by 2020, ploughing millions into programmes that will mobilise a move towards the take-up of low-carbon energy. As the lead Regional Development Agency for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the NWDA is at the helm of national activity, demonstrating a keen eye for this increasingly important sector.

This year alone, the NWDA has committed over £30 million towards the twin issues of energy and climate change. We can show strong leadership on this agenda through developing the new Regional Strategies, by supporting energy and other low carbon technology through innovation, supply chain and skills development, as well as securing energy efficiency and carbon reductions for businesses through Business Link and related services.

As well as being a vital factor for business continuity and everyday life, the energy sector makes an important contribution to the region’s economy. It contributes around £5 billion, with exports worth around £1.2 billion. Over 50,000 people are employed in the energy business in the Northwest.

Nuclear Power in particular, is one of the region’s key strengths. As a world leader in Nuclear Energy, England’s Northwest is extremely well placed to secure future energy supplies for the UK.

The region has unique strengths and skills in nuclear power generation, with around half of the sector’s total UK employment. All aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle, including enrichment, fabrication and reprocessing are carried out in the region and the vast majority of the UK’s nuclear research capability is located in the Northwest.

In Lancashire, Springfields Fuels Ltd (Westinghouse), has provided nuclear fuel fabrication services since the mid-1940’s, and was the first plant in the world to produce fuel for a commercial power station.

The plant, near Preston manufactures nuclear fuel for the domestic market. The site, employing
1500, is owned by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and is operated on their behalf by
Westinghouse Electric Company.

Lancashire is also home to Heysham Power Station, operated by British Energy. The site is divided into two separately-managed stations, Heysham 1 and Heysham 2, both of the advanced gas-cooled reactor (AGR) type, with two reactors each. Employing over 800 people, it has been earmarked as one of the Government’s 11 sites for the development of a new generation of nuclear power.

With Cumbria already home the HQ for the National Skills Academy for Nuclear, this presents further opportunities for nuclear training, research and development within the region.

Steven Broomhead, chief executive of the Northwest Regional Development Agency