It has been an eventful start to the year in both Westminster and the constituency. Last week in Parliament, I hosted a Westminster Hall debate on Small Modular Reactor (SMR) technology, which I, along with a reassuring number of my colleagues, believe to be key to the future of the nuclear industry throughout the UK, and for West Cumbria in particular.

I am convinced that constructing single or incremental SMRs on existing nuclear-licensed sites is a credible, sensible and sustainable way to ensure the country’s energy security in the future.

Developing SMR technology makes particular sense given that the Government’s Nuclear Sector Deal aims for a 30 per cent reduction in the cost of new build, a reduction that would be met by a fleet-build approach.

The reduced cost, repetitive formula, modular method of SMR construction is yet to be trialled in the nuclear industry, but this approach has transformed the car and aerospace industries.

As we look for ways to secure the necessary resurgence of nuclear power, perhaps it is time to do the same for our energy sector.

Small modular reactors up to 440MW in size, with a diverse range of different technologies are currently being researched and developed across the UK, thanks in part, to Government innovation funding.

I will be following the progress of this R&D closely, as I believe it has the potential to bring sustainability to the West Cumbrian nuclear industry.

Grasping the opportunity to meet our domestic power requirements, capitalising on the early adopter benefits of a multibillion, global export market whilst tackling the energy ‘trilemma’ of security, affordability and environmental sustainability, will mean that Cumbria continues to be the Centre of Nuclear Excellence.

Many of the 15 UK reactors are coming to the end of their long serving lives. We must get serious about meeting the world need for affordable and reliable electricity while slowing down global warming before it’s too late.

I welcome the Government’s enthusiasm for SMRs – but time really is of the essence.

Turning to events in Copeland, I welcome the recent news that RMT have decided to suspend their strikes, and have agreed to join Northern at the negotiating table. This is good news for both passengers and businesses across the Northern network who deserve a reliable and safe rail service.

The strike, which ran for just under two years, caused mass disruption to many people and I sincerely hope that this round of negotiations will be successful.

I am also pleased that work has been taking place to make significant track improvements between Bootle and Silecroft as part of the £3 million-pound Great North Rail Project Investment.

I recently took a closer look at these track improvements, and got a sense of what is involved in the replacement of over 5,000 yards of worn out sleepers, ballast and rail. This will help create a smoother, faster and more reliable journey for passengers and freight services of The Cumbrian Coastal Line.

This new rail line, along with the new Sunday services, fewer cancellations and the end of RMT strikes is all great news for our local economy and local people.