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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Far East trip ‘opens up opportunities’ for Cumbria companies

A BRITAIN’S Energy Coast-backed mission to South Korea and Japan has “opened up realopportunities” for companies in West Cumbria’s world-class nuclear industry, according to Britain’s Energy Coast Chairman Brian Wilson.

Britain’s Energy Coast led a delegation of 12 West Cumbrian companies as part of a wider UK trade mission to South Korea and Japan in a bid to support the globalisation of the area’s nuclear expertise.

The companies made up the majority of a packed five-day mission of briefings and presentations in Seoul and Tokyo arranged by UK Trade & Investment in partnership with BEC and the Nuclear Industry Association.

It built on recent visits to Japan by senior officials from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and Sellafield Ltd that set out the nature of expertise in West Cumbria that could be beneficial in tackling the challenges faced in the Far East.

In Korea the mission met 37 companies including Korea Electric Power Corporation, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, Samsung C&T Corporation and Hyundai Heavy Industries and witnessed the historic signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the NIA and Korea Atomic Industry Forum, which promised closer co-operation between the two countries in the nuclear industry (see below).

In Japan companies had the chance to network with more than 40 businesses including major players such as Tokyo Electric Power Company, Hitachi, Toshiba and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and attended a reception staged at the British Embassy.

Each of the 12 West Cumbrian companies made presentations along with Britain’s Energy Coast – who financially subsidised the delegation using funding from its funding Nuclear Partners, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Nuclear Management Partners and Sellafield Ltd.

They were joined by supply chain membership organisation Britain’s Energy Coast Business Cluster, who led on arranging the first showcase of local firms of its kind.

The companies were Tata Steel; Nuclear Engineering Services Ltd (NES); NIS Group; James Fisher Nuclear; Nuclear Decontamination Services Ltd; Westlakes Engineering; Forth Engineering; TIS Cumbria; React Engineering; National Nuclear Laboratory; Shepley Engineers Ltd and Resource Marketing, who also represented Invest in Cumbria.

Encouraging West Cumbrian companies to seek global opportunities in the nuclear sector is a key part of the West Cumbria Economic Blueprint – a key strategy launched in the summer to guide the focus and investment of BEC over the next 15 years.

Rt Hon Brian Wilson, Chairman of Britain’s Energy Coast, said: “It is fair to say the participating companies found the experience even more valuable than they had anticipated and have, along with Britain’s Energy Coast, increased their profile considerably.

“Just being here in such numbers under the Britain’s Energy Coast banner has made an extremely strong statement. There is no doubt the skills, products and services developed in West Cumbria over the years can be applied in other markets. The showcases in both countries were extremely well attended – now everything depends on the follow-through and I know everyone will be working very hard to ensure that happens.

“However, there is undoubtedly cautious optimism that a lot can come out of this with ongoing benefits for the West Cumbria economy.”

The Japanese leg of the mission was the latest of a series of high level visits and events that have taken place in the last year to increase awareness of Britain’s UK nuclear capabilities to assist with the multi-billion clean-up operation following the Fukushima incident as well as potential future decommissioning work resulting from the country’s new nuclear policy. At present, only three of the country’s 54 reactors are operating and Japan has become heavily dependent on imported gas.

Gerry McGill, who is vice-chairman of Britain’s Energy Coast and a Nuclear Management Partners Board director, said: “In discussions with major Japanese utilities and large industrials during the visit, it was clear the work undertaken within Sellafield in dealing with the high hazard reduction has a direct relevance to the challenge faced on Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. It is early days as building appropriate relationships in Japan will take time.”

He added: “This work fits well with NMP’s aim for a centre of nuclear excellence in West Cumbria and is consistent with our, NDA and Sellafield Ltd’s continued support for the West Cumbria supply chain through BEC’s programme of activity.”

Meanwhile, Korea is committed to increasing the proportion of nuclear energy generated from 32 per cent to 59 per cent by 2030 and is progressing new build projects in countries such as United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Vietnam and South Africa.

It is looking to forge partnerships with countries such as Britain in order to grow its experience in decommissioning.

Phil Jardine, Business Development Director at Britain’s Energy Coast Business Cluster, said: “We have collectively done a lot of listening – more than we have talked – to see what the Japanese and Korean companies are looking for from us but also to learn more about what they are doing.

“You cannot help but be impressed by Korea’s nuclear new build programme, while the progress being made to deal with the complex challenges at Fukushima has also taken us aback. It really is about identifying where West Cumbrian companies can help.”

Gill Marsden, Director of NIS Ltd, said: “From my perspective the mission was a huge success; I felt extremely proud to be part of such a prestigious delegation and privileged to meet our peers from Japan and Korea.

“The whole experience really drove home two key factors for me. First, as a global industry, the challenges we face are almost identical and we have an obligation to share what we can to overcome them.

“The second is the realisation of the vital role West Cumbria and Britain’s Energy Coast can play in providing opportunities for the current and future generation of nuclear skills. I felt truly proud to be Cumbrian and will ensure the NIS Group of companies do everything we can to support the local efforts.”

George Andrews, Programme Director at Nuclear Engineering Services Ltd added: “The trade mission has been a tremendous success. It provided a superb opportunity for the West Cumbrian businesses fortunate enough to showcase their undoubted skill and capabilities on a global stage.

“The new build market in Korea and beyond is simply enormous and presents a major opportunity to us all. However, the scale of the decommissioning challenge facing the Japanese people following the tragic events at Fukushima is almost indescribable. Many of the great West Cumbria businesses on this mission have developed unique and world class products or services which can undoubtedly play an important role in helping our Japanese colleagues manage the aftermath of the disaster. We are honour bound to do everything we can to help.”

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