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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 August 2005, 13:26 GMT 14:26 UK
Cumbria left with 'lethal legacy'
By Phil Mawson
BBC News, Cumbria

Nuclear fuel
Sellafield stores tonnes of high-level nuclear waste
The decommissioning of Sellafield will leave Cumbria with as many issues as the nuclear complex has created over the past 50 years.

More than 8,000 of the site's workforce of 12,000 will lose their jobs by 2011 as the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority's (NDA) work kicks in.

The government says it will help the area survive economically.

But even when Sellafield is gone, thousands of tonnes of lethal nuclear waste will remain.

Sellafield holds 98% of the country's most deadly nuclear waste and more than 50% of intermediate level waste - enough to fill more than 1,000 double decker buses.

We have a world-class workforce in this sector that must be retained and enhanced
Northwest Development Agency spokesman

Drigg, some 6km south of Sellafield, contains tonnes more low-level waste from nuclear facilities, universities and hospitals.

A decision on what will happen to waste at both sites has yet to be made by the government's Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM). But Drigg is filling up fast, leaving Sellafield as the prime site to store the UK's nuclear waste underground - even when Sellafield is decommissioned.

The management of nuclear waste will help to secure some jobs in west Cumbria.

But the government admits that securing the economic future of the area will be tough.

Millions of pounds has been set aside to alleviate the impact of the demise of Sellafield.

Drigg nuclear waste site
The Drigg site is more than 40 years old

Among the projects under consideration is the creation by the NDA of a Nuclear Skills Academy and a Nuclear Institute - both likely to be sited in Cumbria.

It is a move welcomed by the Learning and Skills Council, which said: "Clearly these would have major implications in terms of investment and the development of high added value jobs.

"They would also provide an opportunity for local people to gain the skills needed for decommissioning work, as well as any work which would develop should there be any new nuclear build in the future."

In November 2004, Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt said she was determined that a post-Sellafield Cumbria would get "high quality jobs".

The NDA says it plans to help establish charitable trusts to foster community-based projects and entrepreneurship. But it also admits that its funds are "limited" and that its role is not job creation.

Sellafield complex in Cumbria
Decommissioning at Sellafield has begun

A spokesman added: "It is not NDA's role to directly replace jobs lost as a result of our activities, nor is it our responsibility to lead socio-economic regeneration programmes - other agencies are best placed to do this.

"We fully accept, however, our responsibility to work to maximise the opportunities for local people and businesses arising through decommissioning and clean up."

A range of government bodies are considering how best to tackle the problems Cumbria will face over the next 25 years.

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

A spokesman for the Northwest Regional Development Agency said: "We recognise west Cumbria as a regional and national priority for economic regeneration.

"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.

"We must build on this reputation, providing the focus required to move the industry forward."




SEE ALSO:
Sellafield 'wind down' under way
01 Apr 05 |  Cumbria


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