Nuclear hope fails to calm energy fears

Vince Middleton managing director Newburgh Engineering, Rotherham
Vince Middleton managing director Newburgh Engineering, Rotherham
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Business leaders are calling on companies across the Sheffield City Region to ensure they take maximum advantage of the UK’s new drive for nuclear power.

Leading Sheffield lawyer Martin McKervey and chairman of advanced manufacturer Newburgh Engineering Vince Middleton are both urging companies to get “nuclear ready.”

Meanwhile, Master Cutler Tony Pedder and Sheffield Chamber of Commerce executive director Richard Wright remain concerned that Britain still lacks a coherent energy policy that would maintain supplies and stabilise prices.

All welcomed Prime Minister David Cameron’s green light for a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point.

Martin McKervey, from law firm Nabarro, has taken an active interest in the potential for civil nuclear power projects.

He described the Prime Minister’s announcement as “the news we have all been waiting for,” and stressed the opportunities for companies outside manufacturing.

“The vast majority is civil construction work, bricks and mortar,” said Mr McKervey.

“The obvious question is how much of the supply chain is going to be in the UK and, more importantly for this city region, how many local companies are going to avail themselves of the opportunities.”

Newburgh’s Vince Middleton said: “Companies should try to get into manufacturing for the nuclear sector. It is very, very demanding, but, if you are in aerospace and defence, there is no reason why you shouldn’t seek nuclear contracts.

“There will also be a lot of building contracts and logistics work.”

Both men urged businesses to take advantage of the Fit4Nuclear programme, run by the Nuclear AMRC, which assures nuclear power station developers and operators businesses can meet their exacting standards.

Master Cutler Tony Pedder said the Prime Minister’s announcement was “great news,” but did little to answer concerns about the security of energy supplies in the short term.

Mr Pedder is worried that, this winter, Britain’s energy supplies will only be five per cent above demand – a painfully tight margin that could easily be eroded by bad weather.

He wants Britain to temporarily shelve some of its plans to close coal-fired power stations and follow the lead of the French who are looking at ways to extend the life of their existing nuclear power plants.

Richard Wright, from Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, criticised the short termism of successive governments when it came to energy.

“There is no long term thinking,” said Mr Wright, who echoed the Master Cutler’s call for the government to increase energy security by extending the life of coal- fired power stations.

“Energy security is a big issue. I am not at all convinced that we have got the energy supply strategy right.”

n Hinkley Point is just the start: Pages 4-5