Nuclear industry now needs to engage
In a major leap towards a new age of nuclear energy for the UK, the consortium planning to build three nuclear reactors in Cumbria has reached agreement on commercial terms.
The low-profile announcement by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority confirmed the agreement with the NuGen consortium to extend the land option, confirming the commitment to build the reactors at Moorside in west Cumbria.
To give some idea of the scale of the project, the Department of Energy and Climate Change said the reactors, to come online from 2024, will deliver 3.4GW of new nuclear capacity, enough to power up to six million homes.
After what seems a like an age of silence, the nuclear industry can now seize the opportunity to highlight the benefits of what it can bring to Britain’s beleaguered energy reserves.
Having worked in the nuclear industry for some years, the need to get it right this time cannot be underestimated.
We will probably never forget the leak at Sellafield in 1957, and the mistakes made in managing the industry in the past which has not helped reassure a sceptical public.
However, there is now the opportunity for the nuclear industry to reinvent itself, cast off the shackles of the past and communicate clearly the benefits it can bring for the future as part of the new energy mix.
As the developers of shale gas have discovered, achieving that will be a challenge. It will need to be brave in making announcements of major milestones, sharing information with communities and engaging with its key stakeholders including the media at local and national level.
At Freshfield, we advise openness and transparency, and never more so than in an industry such as this beset by issues of reputation and perception.
Simple steps such as sharing plans at public meetings, keeping local politicians and planners up to date, sharing good information online and speaking at local events would all help to dispel the cynics.
We can’t go on relying on importing our energy, and being held to ransom every winter, facing blackouts and huge energy price rises. This surely is the time for nuclear to get it right.