A week after Toshiba decided to pull out of plans to develop a new nuclear power station in Cumrbia, Craig Hatch of WYG, believes the appetite and need for Moorside remains as strong as ever but has called for a more cohesive approach and for ministers to get better at courting possible investors.
So, the NuGeneration story comes to an end with Toshiba’s announcement that it will wind up the entity early next year due to not securing a buyer. At a corporate level, the decision is understandable. The failure to ensure the development progresses, however, sheds a different light on other stakeholders within UK PLC.
What’s very clear is the need and appetite for Moorside to happen. Providing 7% of the nation’s security requirements single-handedly during political instability makes it an absolute no-brainer, not to mention the fact that it is situated in a heartland of nuclear skills capability.
Cumbria is home to the Centre of Nuclear Excellence (CoNE), a partnership that unites nuclear organisations in the region including Sellafield, Low Level Waste Repository (LLWR), the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), and BAE, which is building nuclear submarines down the road in Barrow.
A new build would have required additional skills, but the level of nuclear intelligence present in these organisations provides a depth of transferable skills not found anywhere else in the world. This makes a compelling business case for a country with significant skills shortages for infrastructure developments.
Economic stimulus in the surrounding area, and Moorside’s location in a community that would welcome it, should have also helped compel a business case. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to resolve a number of socio-economic issues, particularly in relation to areas of deprivation within west Cumbria impacted by its relative isolation due to inadequate transport infrastructure.
If the announcement this week is to be turned into a positive, a great start would be recognising the imminent needs for a 'one voice' Cumbria.
Craig Hatch, WYG.
Since the announcement, central government has received most of the flak from Toshiba’s failure to find a buyer. It could have undoubtedly done a lot more – changing the funding expectation for the project from the models for EDF at Hinkley C and Horizon at Anglesey didn’t help.
Insufficient government support has also reportedly discouraged potential buyers KEPCO, previously announced as preferred bidders. This is a lost opportunity and government should be better at courting friendly investors.
Whilst professing general support for nuclear new build, energy minister Richard Harrington revealed at the Cumbria Nuclear Conference that there was no cohesive plan for Moorside within the current UK energy policy.
At the Conservative Party Conference, Theresa May spoke of Moorside’s problems as “a commercial matter”. Most of us would, on the contrary, consider consistency of energy supply and security to be of national importance.
Brexit is obviously commanding all the government’s attention at this time. The status quo needs to change, but it may not happen quickly and in time for Moorside to happen. Alternative solutions like Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) on the site are already being discussed.
These are welcome considerations, but the designs and proven build cost versus generating capacity aren’t there yet. The work already contributed by NuGeneration’s high-calibre professionals under the excellent leadership of CEO Tom Samson should not be lost. We question the low levels of productivity within the UK, and rendering all the time and financial investment in Moorside thus far as unproductive will only exacerbate that issue.
Cumbria itself must shoulder its share of responsibility. The lack of cohesion within Cumbrian local government and the historic ineffectiveness of the Local Enterprise Partnership are widely known. The two-tier authority system empowers too many factions within the county.
Now, more than ever, we need that one cohesive voice to include the major nuclear organisations, the MPs, a united business community supported by the Chamber of Commerce and CBI, and most essentially, a single local government voice and an effective LEP.
If the announcement this week is to be turned into something positive, a great start would be recognising the imminent need for a ‘one voice’ Cumbria. We must convince investors and central government to see the compelling reasons for Moorside being the right site for a nuclear power station, and learn from recent mistakes to ensure a positive future outcome that benefits us all.
Craig Hatch is the managing director of Surveying and Asset Management at WYG.