Northern Powerhouse welcomes government support for next generation nuclear strategy
A delegation of over 50 senior business, academic and local government stakeholders from across the North has heralded the ‘transformative’ socio-economic impact of a pan-Northern nuclear strategy at the Civil Nuclear Showcase.
Led by the NP11 – the North’s business-led voice, comprising its 11 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) – and the North West Nuclear Arc consortium, the group of leading public and private sector partners showcased the region’s unique, connected capability as it made the case for further investment, and policy support from Government.
The region is keen to cement its position as a global centre of excellence in low-carbon next-generation nuclear energy; secure high-value jobs in remote coastal communities; establish the North as a world-leader in Small Modular Reactor (SMR) technology which has a predicted global export potential of £250bn; and to safeguard a reliable low-carbon source of energy to support the country’s move towards zero carbon by 2050.
Held over two days in early March, the Department for International Trade’s Civil Nuclear Showcase provides delegates from across the globe with the opportunity to network and learn more about the latest developments and innovations impacting the international nuclear marketplace.
During the event, the Northern Powerhouse delegation showcased a number of key sector developments across the North, highlighting the region’s connected, complementary capability, and driving engagement with nuclear’s next generation through interactive sessions.
Key highlights during the conference included a keynote speech from Nadhim Zahawi MP, Minister for Business and Industry, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, during which he outlined the Government’s continued focus on the nuclear sector as a critical element in the UK government’s strategy to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Other major announcements included Preston-based Westinghouse Springfields unveiling plans for a new Clean Energy Park at its site. Westinghouse Springfields provides the fuel for almost a third of the UK’s low carbon electricity. The new innovation campus will be open to technology developers, supply chain and academia to co-locate and collaborate to develop and demonstrate advanced nuclear technologies.
The delegation also hosted a hackathon session with young people in the industry led by The National Nuclear Laboratory, which is based in Warrington. During the event, participants shared their thoughts and experiences as they explored how the sector could take steps to nurture a more diverse workforce and enhance nuclear’s reputation for producing low carbon electricity.
While Rebecca Weston COO at Sellafield in Cumbria led a session highlighting how pioneering innovation within the region was driving positive change in decommissioning – exploring how innovation developed at the site is helping to create efficiencies and lower costs involved in the decommissioning process. While the role that Advanced Modular Reactors and Small Modular Reactors will play in enabling the next generation of nuclear, was unpacked during a session hosted by Sheffield based AMRC.
Paul Booth, Chair of the Tees Valley LEP and NP11 Clean Growth lead, said: “Nuclear has a key role to play in enabling the UK to reach its 2050 zero-emissions targets and show that the UK is open for green business and is serious about maintaining its role as a world leader in tackling climate change. As a centre of excellence in nuclear, the North continues to innovate and drive forward best practice in the sector and is critical to enabling the UK to achieve these targets.
“The CNS provides a great opportunity to connect with government, highlight the requirement for continued investment in the sector, and showcase the North’s outstanding supply chain partners, world-class research hubs, and a wealth of long-standing industry expertise. We welcome Nadhim Zahawi MP’s commitment to the continued growth and support of the sector and we look forward to seeing the Government continue to invest and provide the support needed to develop the skills the sector needs, build a more diverse workforce, and progress UK nuclear capability.”
Dr Rebecca Weston, co-chair of the North West Nuclear Arc, added: “The North has become a world-leader in both decommissioning R&D, and the operational practicalities of carrying it out. As more of the old generation of nuclear power plants around the world reach the end of their fuel cycles, there’s a real opportunity to export the expertise and innovation we’ve developed here.
“In addition to bringing together local government, industry and academic leaders, the NWNA looks to create opportunities for businesses and communities in remote coastal towns which depend on the industry.
“Because nuclear energy undoubtedly has a key role to play in the UK’s future energy production. Despite the country making a welcome move towards zero carbon by 2050, and the production of cleaner, cheaper energy, based on current predictions, the National Grid will still require a 50gigawatt baseload requirement which can’t currently be met by renewable sources alone.
“Next-generation nuclear energy remains the greenest way to meet that shortfall. The North has the fusion of skills, infrastructure and nuclear-licensed assets to deliver it.”