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£20million funding agreed to support West Cumbria skills and nuclear cluster strategy

07 December 2005

Over the next three years the NDA will contribute over £20million to the funding of three new initiatives to be based in West Cumbria; a Nuclear Institute, a National Nuclear Skills Academy, and a new academic position of Chair of Epidemiology.

These initiatives will begin to equip both the present workforce in the nuclear industry and generations to follow with the right mix of skills to grow and sustain an industrial base capable of being a world leader in the field of nuclear decommissioning at home and abroad. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) will be working to achieve these goals alongside partner organisations including the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), the University of Manchester, GENII, Lakes College, the Learning and Skills Council, Cogent, the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA), Nexia Solutions, Copeland and Allerdale Councils.

The NDA is also bringing forward plans to support skills development in other areas of the UK affected by nuclear decommissioning such as the North of Scotland, North Wales and the South West of England.

A Nuclear Institute based at the West Lakes Science and Technology Park in Whitehaven will bring world class scientific research to West Cumbria and link to a technology centre at Sellafield. This project involves a funding partnership between the NDA and the Dalton Institute which is part of the University of Manchester. £10million of the £20million capital cost is being funded by the NDA as a result of savings made to the Sellafield decommissioning programme by contractor British Nuclear Group. The University of Manchester is directly funding the other £10million in partnership with the NDA to establish a facility for the Dalton Nuclear Institute based in the North West.

This new technology research facility will complement the well-established work of Westlakes Research Institute in environmental science, health and epidemiology which is already based at the West Lakes Science and Technology Park. The project will enhance the strategic development of the Science Park as a nuclear cluster of international standing.

‘Nucleus’ which is part of the proposed National Nuclear Skills Academy will receive £5million from the NDA towards an estimated total cost of £15million to £17million. The Academy will be a dynamic new initiative for the nuclear sector providing vocational training including Foundation degrees and apprenticeships to meet changing employer needs. It will develop integrated provision across the UK with Nucleus, based in West Cumbria, being one of its first centres provided through a partnership of Lakes College, GEN II and UCLan.

A comprehensive business plan has been produced for the Academy and a project manager - Rob Harwood - has been appointed. Rob will now be working with Cogent (the Sector Skills Council for the nuclear sector) and the Department for Education and Skills to establish the Academy as one of the Government’s new National Skills Academies. Plans are being developed to bid for National Skills Academy status and additional funding in the Spring of 2006.

A new academic position of Chair of Epidemiology will be established in partnership with the University of Central Lancashire. This will enable the development of a greater understanding of the long term impact of radiation dose and is key to assuring the health and safety of the workforce. It will provide a unique pool of expertise and assure the future of a world-leading research team in West Cumbria and also help underpin the sustainability of the decommissioning industry in the North West. The NDA will provide £5million funding for the project.

The physical presence of both UCLan and the University of Manchester in West Cumbria will also provide good opportunities to work together and enhance the individual investments being made. The Dalton Institute will also be forming a network with other leading national and international research universities and centres that will bring added benefit and reputation to the North West.

NDA Chief Executive Dr Ian Roxburgh said:

"We have been given the task of the safe clean up of Britain’s nuclear legacy by Government. A central element of that task is to understand the impact of decommissioning on our communities and to work with partners to develop the initiatives and skills that will enable those communities to take advantage of the £multi-billion decommissioning programme, and thereby offset some of the socio-economic impacts of plant closure. These projects are an example of our response but the funding would not have been possible were it not for the work of our contractors British Nuclear Group and UKAEA. They have been able to develop better and more cost-effective ways of progressing with their decommissioning programmes, so releasing money to fund these initiatives.

Here are the first tangible signs of our firm commitment to the future of West Cumbria. I am hopeful that the adoption of our Strategy by Government in early 2006 will provide a clear road map to enable us to rapidly build on these early beginnings.

" University of Manchester President and Vice Chancellor Alan Gilbert said:

“I would like to thank the NDA on behalf of all the institutions that will benefit from these initiatives. Whatever further developments there are in relation to Britain’s nuclear industry, we all recognise that there is a vital and mammoth task ahead in decommissioning existing nuclear sites and making the environment safe for generations ahead.

Among other things, this involves a major research agenda in which the University of Manchester and its partners, in Britain and around the world, are delighted to be engaged”.

NWDA Chairman Bryan Gray said:

“As one of Britain’s premier sites for nuclear science, West Cumbria has an established track record in attracting talented industry specialists and the important initiatives currently being developed will ensure that we continue to build on this expertise for future generations. Ensuring that we have the right skills in place to grow and sustain this industrial base is absolutely vital in establishing West Cumbria as a world leader in nuclear decommissioning. The RDA will continue to work together with the NDA and our partner organisations in Cumbria to ensure that we maximise Cumbria’s nuclear skill capabilities and focus on the significant opportunities that decommissioning presents”.

GENII Managing Director Mike Smith said:

“GENII enthusiastically supports the NDA’s investment in skills for the population of West Cumbria. The skills development needed to undertake the massive remediation and decommissioning of the Sellafield Site requires the investment in infrastructure promised by the NDA.

West Cumbria, with its strong links and expertise in the nuclear industry is well placed to become a national and international centre for decommissioning studies. The creation of a National Nuclear Skills Academy and a state of the art delivery facility “Nucleus” will facilitate this aim.

GENII Engineering and Technology Training Ltd is the UK’s only Centre of Excellence (CoVE) for Nuclear Engineering Technology.

 The new Nucleus facility will be a fitting home for the CoVE and allow GENII to build on its considerable experience in nuclear technologies to the benefit of the industry and the future economic wellbeing of West Cumbria. GENII and its partner companies look forward to working with the NDA in the efficient application of this much needed investment in skills.”

UCLan Vice-chancellor Dr Malcolm McVicar said:

“We welcome this new funding which lays the foundations of a new nuclear sector in the North West. The University of Central Lancashire, through the new Chair in Epidemiology and the existing social and environmental research capacity at Westlakes Research Institute, looks forward to working collaboratively with all stakeholders and supporting the NDA in delivering its strategy for the region and for the sector.”

Paul Holme, Executive Director of Learning and Skills Council Cumbria said:

“LSC Cumbria welcomes the NDA’s commitment to West Cumbria. Training and re-training for staff in the nuclear industry, and for new recruits, as the industry moves to decommissioning is critical, and securing skills for any future new build, should the Government decide on this, is also vital. The LSC will continue to work with partner organisations to secure these skill requirements, particularly in West Cumbria.

Cogent Chief Executive Officer Joanna Woolf said:

"We are determined to work with nuclear employers to develop a Nuclear Skills Academy which meets their skills needs and will be submitting a robust Expression of Interest in the next round.

 Employers in this sector are facing numerous challenges, particularly around decommissioning, and Cogent will continue to work on their behalf to ensure they get the skills they need to succeed.

This also means working collaboratively with our key stakeholders including the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, the Regional Development Agencies and training providers. We look forward to progressing this critically important development to the next stage."

Lakes College Principal, Pat Glenday said:

“The impact of the nuclear industry on the economy here in West Cumbria, cannot be over-estimated, and the need for people with the right skills to support that industry is paramount. Therefore we are absolutely delighted to hear of the NDA’s plans to provide financial backing for the proposed national nuclear skills academy and Nucleus. The Nucleus initiative, in which the college is a key partner, holds the promise of bringing state of the art skills training to local people, and those from further afield, bring tangible benefits to the industry, the economy and the community”.