A “majority” of the 11 shortlisted sites already announced are expected to be given the go-ahead by Ed Miliband, the energy minister. Two locations near to Sellafield in Cumbria are also expected to receive the green light. These will give the go-ahead for thousands of new engineering jobs at Sellafield and all over Cumbria.
Mr Miliband will also announce a new Infrastructure Planning Commission which will mean planning applications for nuclear plants will be fast-tracked, avoiding the kind of delays which dogged the six-year battle over the building of the Sizewell B power plant. These problems will hopefully not be repeated for the Sellafield site so that engineering jobs at Sellafield will be secure.
The new stations could be up and running as soon as 2017, with Mr Miliband making clear that the Government believes that “saying no” to nuclear is not an option if Britain is to meet its climate change commitments. Nuclear engineering jobs are crucial at Sellafield, along with electrical, design and mechanical engineers.
The proposed sites near the Sellafield nuclear complex in Cumbria, which are currently farmland and have been bought by the German-owned RWE N-Power, are also thought almost certain to receive the go-ahead. One, in mid-Copeland already has access to the national grid. Engineering vacancies in Cumbria have been the heart of the economy for many years, and this good news means that engineering in Cumbria is likely to continue thriving.
With the current generation of nuclear power stations due to come to the end of their lives over the next decade, Mr Miliband will say that a number of new sites are needed if Britain is to achieve its target of cutting CO2 emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. The United Kingdom currently gets 15 per cent of its energy from nuclear power, and the Government wants this to increase to 25 per cent by 2025. Demand is expected to rise by 55 per cent by 2050. Nuclear engineers in Carlisle and Barrow have been worried that green issues could halt the new Sellafield site. Luckily, engineering jobs in Cumbria are set to continue.
Green groups expressed dismay at the prospect of the new nuclear power stations, however, and warned the Government could be open to legal challenge if the statements did not properly consider climate change. They do, however, recognise that engineering jobs in Cumbria are vital to the economy, especially for engineering jobs in Carlisle and engineering jobs in Barrow-In-Furness,
Minsters have insisted that under the new planning regime, firms will still have to work closely with local regions and prove that they have consulted widely in order to win approval. Mr Miliband said: “We know the low-carbon transition is a huge challenge. We now need to move on to getting the actions in place to make it happen.
“That is why the national policy statements and Infrastructure Planning Commission are important, because the truth is that we are not going to be able to deliver a 21st century energy system with a 20th century planning system.”
The strong Government drive for nuclear is likely to anger many on the Labour back benches. A balance must be struck between green issues, energy demand and the essential nature of engineering jobs in Cumbria.