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Mean on Monday: we must not let our nuclear heritage go to waste

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By Ian Mean

Business West Gloucestershire director

Stroud MP Siobhan Baillie was a driving force behind Gloucestershire’s bid to build the UK’s first £200m prototype fusion plant here in the county.

She told me she was “gutted” that our Severn Edge bid from the Western Gateway partnership had lost out to Nottingham.

I am gutted too having worked to promote the bid over the last year.

But Siobhan told me it’s important “we are good losers” and wished good luck to Nottingham. I agree.

What now needs to happen is all the work of the teams from Western Gateway and our councils is not wasted.

She has rightly asked the government minister what other projects could be based at Berkeley, particularly in relation to green energy.

“The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority investigated the Seven Edge bid within an inch of its life, and clearly it has many strong points or it would not have been in the final rounds for the plant”, Siobhan told me.

She says that her efforts have now been pivoted to find new opportunities for the Berkeley site which is, of course, in her constituency.

That is also the aim of the Western Gateway partnership and its great team of experts whose work has  been so valuable and innovative.

One of the big ideas for the former nuclear sites at Berkeley, and at Oldbury in South Gloucestershire, is the possibility of them housing some of the first, new small nuclear reactors.

These SMRs-Small Modular Reactors- as they are called, are being developed by Rolls Royce and could, I am told by the experts, be ideal for the sites.

They are each about the size of three football pitches.

Through South Gloucestershire and Stroud College, the Berkeley site has been developing with a strong, sustainable net zero focus and I believe the SMR project could find it a very suitable home.

What the Severn Edge bid proved to me was that it was possible to bring together councils throughout Gloucestershire, and key stakeholders to drive a unified campaign.

At the heart of that campaign was the nuclear heritage and the skills of local communities to support it.

We must not let that go to waste.

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