The outgoing chief executive of Sellafield Limited has said he is willing to assist but not lead efforts to secure Small Modular Rector development in Cumbria after he has stepped down from the high-profile role.

Paul Foster – who is due to leave the organisation at the end of the month – floated the pledge when asked by a member of the audience at a meeting of the Britain’s Energy Coast Business Cluster if he would consider leading the charge.

The question came following an outspoken speech dubbed by Mr Foster as “musing and ramblings” during which he challenged Cumbria to “get organised” and develop a clear vision that major employers such as Sellafield Ltd can back if it is to realise its economic potential.

Among a number of calls for positive action from businesses and county leaders, Mr Foster called for greater leadership in the county’s push to secure SMR development.

Appetite not only erect by also construct for SMRs in Cumbria has continued to grow following the collapse of the NuGen’s £15 billion large-scale nuclear power plant at the Moorside site.

Speaking at the Global Reach 2019 conference at Manchester Airport in November, it emerged that a Rolls Royce-led consortium currently designing a first-of-a-kind SMR was actively targeting Cumbria as a location for them.

Mr Foster told the BECBC meeting: “I’m absolutely agnostic about SMRs for three-and-a-half weeks.

“Everyone is agreeing that SMRs are a good idea. But at the moment it is like walking into the Andes, saying to people ‘look at this brilliant car we have’ and then realising they haven’t got the roads, petrol stations, licensing system and so on.

“What I would say is that Sellafield has a supply chain, link to the grid, is a licensed site, and has a local workforce. Who is speaking for the region on that basis?”

When challenged during a question and answer session by a delegate who asked Mr Foster would consider leading an existing “strong” steering group on the issue, he responded: “I can help but won't lead. I’m not the right person.”

During his speech Mr Foster had said he would be “watching and cheering for you from the side lines” when he steps down after five years at the helm of the organisation leading the decommissioning and clean up efforts at the complex nuclear site in West Cumbria.

Any involvement in Cumbria’s efforts to capitalise on the development and operation of SMRs, would be seen a significant boon by those involved.

Both the Copeland MP Trudy Harrison and Copeland Borough Council have vowed to up the ante on lobbying the Government for SMRs to be developed in Copeland.

Mrs Harrison has previously said the nuclear licensed sites of Sellafield, Moorside and Fellside are “common sense locations” for the technology.

And last year businesses in Cumbria have met with the consortium to showcase their expertise and capability in a bid to be involved in the manufacture of the plants.

The consortium – which also includes the National Nuclear Laboratory, Wood, Atkins, Laing O’Rourke, Assystem, BAM Nuttall, The Welding Institute (TWI) and Nuclear AMRC – aims to have the first working model up-and-running in the early 2030s.

The SMRs are roughly the size of a one-and-a-half football pitches, can be constructed off site before installation and are cheaper to manufacture than their large-scale equivalents.

The consortium says it is targeting a £1.8bn cost for each station, which would be operational for 60 years and provide 440MW of electricity, which is enough to power a city the size of Leeds.

By 2050, it hopes to have a programme of 16 of its power stations, creating up to 40,000 jobs, generating £52bn for the UK economy along with £250bn worth of exports.

Alan Woods, director of strategy and business development at Rolls Royce, told the Global Reach conference – organised by the Britain’s Energy Coast Business Cluster’s Shadow Board – that existing nuclear licensed sites in Cumbria and Wales were its top targets.