West Cumbrian opinions divided on government's nuclear commitment

  • Andrew Misra speaks to people in West Cumbria about the government's commitment to nuclear power.

Opinions are divided in west Cumbria on whether nuclear power should be classified as "environmentally sustainable".

The government announced a commitment to nuclear energy in the Spring Budget on Wednesday, outlining that - subject to consultation - nuclear power will be classed as “environmentally sustainable”.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, said the government would be "fully committing to nuclear power in the UK" in a plan to "help drive energy bills down for households".

The announcement has been met with mixed reactions in west Cumbria, the home of Europe's biggest nuclear facility, Sellafield.

An engineering firm that makes nuclear reactors in Workington says it bodes well for the future.

"I think it's a very positive move. This is a rebirth of the late 1950s when the first new nuclear technologies at that point became commercialised," said John Coughlan, CEO at TSP Engineering.

"And you've now got the first time you've had new nuclear technologies since the big plants that we've had in the past, that allows us to move forward."

The government has launched a competition for proposers of Small Modular Reactors which are built in one location and shipped to a separate site.

Several companies are linked to bringing them to west Cumbria, including Rolls Royce and TSP. "The worldwide private investment community now know that this government regards nuclear as being green so they can comfortably invest, knowing that this government is backing nuclear as a clean, green technology because net zero needs nuclear," said Trudy Harrison, Conservative MP for Copeland.

"The sun doesn't shine all the time. The wind doesn't blow all the time, but day in, day out the reactors are powering the nation." Although nuclear doesn't produce any emissions directly, some opponents say it's not without its problems.

"If you want reliable sources of renewable energy, then you go to the tides, which come in every day," said Cllr Jill Perry of Allerdale & Copeland Green Party.

"There's nothing sustainable about nuclear. It's too expensive, too slow and too dangerous and creates a legacy of nuclear waste we have no idea what to do with." Three separate partnerships are currently looking at bringing a Geological Disposal Facility to West Cumbria to get rid of waste which is currently stored above ground at Sellafield.