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Kenilworth, Warwickshire, United Kingdom, 2008/03/27 - The Construction Centre.co.uk highlighted that events this week have shown just how serious the government is about the development of nuclear power in the UK.
Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President during his state visit to the UK this week will sign an agreement of cooperation between the two countries on the use of French technology in the development of UK nuclear power. Business Secretary John Hutton said in a speech yesterday that “Britain has the potential to become a gateway to a new nuclear renaissance across Europe.” In another statement released yesterday by the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency it was announced that four designs for nuclear power stations had passed the first stage of the Generic Design Assessment process.
The Construction Centre commented that it was no accident these three events had coincided this week and stated that it would not be long before the construction industry would have the opportunity to provide the skills and manufacturing requirements for this new generation of reactors. Hutton in his speech to Unite, the largest trade union in the UK said that the new power stations could create up to 100,000 new jobs and over 20 billion pounds to the industry.
Despite the positive feedback from the union, The Construction Centre warned that with the skills shortage already affecting the building industry there was a significant risk that the employment for the new power stations could come from abroad. Only one nuclear power station is built every year, worldwide and the technology continually developing. Britain last commissioned a reactor in 1994 and The Construction Centre highlighted its concern that the jobs may go to people outside of the UK.
Dougie Rooney, National Officer for Unite said “It sends a powerful message to the commercial world and to UK industry that it is safe for it to invest in new facilities, new product designs, training and jobs. If international standards are applied, there is also a massive export potential here for the UK industry to exploit but industry needs the certainty that licensing will provide.”
Happily the HSE and EA released their statement in line with Rooney’s hope with the announcement that the licensing for four nuclear power plant designs are now one step closer. The entire process for full licensing could however take up to 3.5 years. Richard Simmons, Managing Director at The Construction Centre said “It is all too clear that the government are proactively taking the nuclear route to provide the UK with more electricity and for the construction industry this can only be a positive step forward. This is only providing that we have the skills, training and manufacturing potential in place ready for construction and commissioning.”
The Construction Centre said that the government had in one week coordinated an exceptional promotional campaign for its nuclear power strategy but had given no real guarantees. That it had in effect tried to gather support from all sides; through the promises of technological alliances with France, employment opportunities, the potential industrial and financial rewards and the reduction of the UK’s carbon emissions.