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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 December, 2003, 13:21 GMT
Taskforce to 'save' West Cumbria
Currently, 12,000 people work at Sellafield
A government-backed taskforce is being set up to ensure the economic future of West Cumbria.

The taskforce will focus on how the area will survive economically after the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant is decommissioned over the next 10 years.

Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt said the government was acting now "to ensure continued security for the region" following the establishment of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) in 2005.

The new taskforce, which will have more than 100m available to spend over the next five years alone, will be responsible for developing a new social, educational and economic infrastructure for the area.

Mrs Hewitt said: "West Cumbria's history of involvement in the nuclear industry made it the ideal choice for the location of the NDA, but we also recognised that the change in focus to clean up activities would, in time, have an effect on the socio-economic stability of the region.

We have a world class workforce in the nuclear sector in Cumbria, that must be retained and enhanced
Steven Broomhead, Northwest Development Agency

"These concerns could not be ignored.

"That is why I am announcing this forward looking taskforce to protect and enhance the regeneration of the region.

"The government's confidence in the expertise West Cumbria brings to the nuclear industry, and the fundamental role it will play in nuclear clean up, is clear."

The taskforce will be led by the Northwest Development Agency (NWDA) and will include the urban regeneration company, West Lakes Renaissance as well as other government departments.

'Significant opportunities'

Steven Broomhead, NWDA Chief Executive, said: "The agency 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.

"The industry is facing a period of major transition, but there are significant opportunities to be grasped.

"We have a world class workforce in the nuclear sector in Cumbria, that must be retained and enhanced."

Recent research has shown the number of jobs at Sellafield will drop significantly after the next decade.

The report - West Cumbria Socio-Economic Study - said that for the next decade, the current 12,000 on site jobs will largely be maintained and could increase.

But it warned that thereafter, on-site jobs could fall significantly.

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