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Last Updated: Monday, 1 November, 2004, 17:10 GMT
Minister's post-nuclear jobs hope
Patricia Hewitt
Patricia Hewitt pledged help for west Cumbria
The government says it is committed to helping create "high quality jobs" for west Cumbria after the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant closes.

Sellafield is among UK nuclear sites to be decommissioned in coming years.

But there are fears for the region's future without the thousands of jobs Sellafield provides.

Now Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt has reaffirmed the government's commitment to ensuring west Cumbria's economic future.

Job levels in West Cumbria in the nuclear industry are predicted to decline as commercial activities at Sellafield are reduced, although nuclear cleanup will provide some new opportunities in the area.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which will oversee the dismantling of nuclear facilities from Next April, is to be based at Moor Row, near Whitehaven.

Ms Hewitt was attending the first meeting of the West Cumbria Strategic Forum, which has been set up to ensure that all the bodies involved with regeneration in area work together.

Ms Hewitt said: "The government and our partners are fully committed to bringing social and economic benefits to west Cumbria and other communities near nuclear sites.

The Sellafield complex will eventually be decommissioned

"There is a world-class skills base in Cumbria that we want to retain and enhance.

"People in Cumbria want high-value jobs and opportunities, and we will work to ensure that those new opportunities are created in Cumbria.

"The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority's decision to locate in Cumbria will be a boost to the area, and will capitalise on the expertise which already exists in west Cumbria."

Steven Broomhead, chief executive of the North West Regional Development Agency, said: "We recognise west Cumbria as a regional and national priority for economic regeneration.

"The RDA is committed to ensuring that growth opportunities continue to be generated for the important nuclear sector in west Cumbria, following the new focus on decommissioning.

"Although the industry is facing a period of major transition, there are significant economic and commercial opportunities which must be exploited.

"We have a world-class workforce in this sector that must be retained and enhanced and we must build on this reputation, providing the focus required to move the industry forward."

Recent figures showed Cumbria's economic output had fallen from 92% of the national average in 1995, to 77% in 2001.

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