The director of the Centre of Nuclear Excellence said that Cumbria’s nuclear plan started a decade later than it should have.

Paul Howarth, speaking at the Northern Powerhouse International Conference, said that fears of a shortage in energy supply reinforced the idea that Cumbria’s nuclear energy generation was coming too late.

Mr Howarth was part of an open discussion on “Powering the Northern Powerhouse” and looking at energy generation in the region and the need for a mixture of industries and technologies.

Mr Howarth said: “One of the reasons energy supply is getting tight is because we’re shutting off our generation one plants as they reach the end of their life, and while we’re looking to extend the life of the generation two plants we’ve not got enough of the third generation.

“We’re starting our generation three programme 10 years too late. We should have these reactors on the bars now and we wouldn’t have the shortfall that we’re seeing and the spikes in energy prices.

“Hindsight is a great thing, but if  10 years ago  we’d had the foresight and vision to work together as an industry, and that’s all low carbon energy not just nuclear, we’d be in a better place now.

“The future reactors will be on the bars and generating for 60, 80, maybe 100 years but it’s a nascent programme and takes time to get started.”

Also taking part in the discussion was Frank Robotham, head of marketing at Associated British Ports who pointed out that Barrow was becoming as well known for its offshore windfarms as its manufacturing.

Mr Robotham said: “Barrow is traditionally known for its submarine manufacturing, but it is now a major centre of offshore supply and that’s a great thing because to an extent the skills needed are complementary.

“Barrow as a port itself is seen to be rejuvenating itself on the back of this new industry and the economic impact it’s having across the town.

“This is massive innovation and to an extent Barrow and the North West can see itself as a world leader in the field.”