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Saturday, 22 November 2014

Olympic level investment

EVERYONE knows about the tremendous economic impact the Olympics had on London this year.

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SEAN BALMER

Now imagine that level of investment opportunity cropping up every year for the next two decades.

Then picture that happening here in Cumbria.

It’s a mouthwatering prospect, but one Cumbrian business leader believes that’s exactly the scale of the investment opportunities due to be thrown up by the nuclear industry in West Cumbria over the next 20 years.

Sean Balmer, commercial director of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, made the prediction at a recent meeting of the Britain’s Energy Coast Business Cluster.

Mr Balmer, who is also chairman of the cluster, pointed to the estimated 120 projects worth more than £100m each which will get under way in and around Sellafield over the next 20 years.

He said: “The Sellafield site dominates the nuclear clean-up and decommissioning mission in the UK and at present the NDA are spending approximately £1.6bn per annum across the site.

“The focus over the next 10 to 15 years is making significant progress in dealing with the legacy facilities which will lead to real opportunities for the supply chain.

“In essence, there will be a continuing programme of commissioning, constructing and fitting out facilities to deal with the management of the waste and materials recovered from those plants. And that will need a wide range of skills and activities to support the expertise on site and give us the very best chance of success.

“Much of that support can come from a West Cumbria supply chain that has the benefit of local knowledge and experience on its side, but local companies must be able to win contracts in a competitive market place.

“Proving that West Cumbria has that expertise and reliability by successfully tackling the challenges at Sellafield will give the area the reputation for delivery and the credibility it needs to benefit from other nuclear and energy related missions around the UK and the world.

“West Cumbria has always played an important role in the UK’s energy policy and we need to work together to ensure that continues.”

Evidence of the scale of the opportunities on offer came during October when Sellafield revealed it had selected a preferred bidder for the £1.1bn Infrastructure Services Alliance.

This contract will cover a huge range of infrastructure services across the Sellafield site for up to 15 years and a joint venture between Morgan Sindall and Arup has been chosen as the preferred bidder to deliver the project, working in partnership with Sellafield Ltd.

They will be tasked with using their own skills and expertise – while assessing supply chain capability as well – to deliver essential services like steam generation, chemical storage, drainage, roads and car parks.

Once the contract is signed, the consortium will be in a position to make a detailed assessment of the work and demand, potentially opening up opportunities for supply chain companies.

The ISA is just one of a series of long-term contracts that will be let by Sellafield Ltd under a new acquisition strategy introduced by parent body Nuclear Management Partners.

Stuart Wilson, Supply Chain Ombudsman for Sellafield Sites, sees similar potential for Cumbrian businesses.

He said: “There are good opportunities in West Cumbria for all sizes of business and I regularly encourage local companies to use the online databases of projects and tenders and to be flexible in how they consider these.

“Not all nuclear-related projects are aimed at huge construction and utility companies – many of them could just as easily be supplied by groups of local SMEs. And the successful consortium on the ISA is also going to need specialist back up from other parts of the supply chain.

“We know that many of our larger (what we call Tier 2) contractors still need the support and expertise of local SMEs if they are to deliver on their projects so there are indirect opportunities there too.”

This is where Mr Balmer sees the key role of BECBC: “The value of the cluster lies in how it can bring together different businesses – and we have over 180 member companies – and build networks among them.

“Those relationships can then be the foundation of joint tendering and partnership working to make sure that more of this nuclear money makes it into the local economy and has a positive impact on the whole area.

“Our members are not only interested in nuclear business development but also in infrastructure investments, renewable energy projects and the social fabric of the place.

“For example, shortlisted companies in our Business Award for Contribution to West Cumbria ranged from Age UK West Cumbria to Hudson-Swan Engineering – one has an excellent track record of working in the community, the other championing jobs for local youngsters with its commitment to apprentices. Both are making a difference and showing other businesses exactly how we can all contribute to the future of Britain’s Energy Coast.”

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