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great leaps forward for football giants and nuclear energy.

A revamp for the theatre of dreams

One of the most famous football stadia in the world is set to undergo a major modernisation scheme. Manchester United's owners and management are in talks with construction and engineering firms to identify priorities for renovation at Old Trafford, already the largest ground in the English football league and second only to Wembley in size.

Old Trafford was built in 1910 and has a capacity of 74,140, still comfortably ahead by more than 11,000 of its nearest English rival Tottenham Hotspur. The ground was expanded several times during the 1990s and 2000s but the last major work was carried out in 2006. 

Although no contracts have yet been awarded and the names of firms under consideration have not been disclosed, the club's chief operating officer Colette Roche said: "We are hoping to appoint our preferred partners in the coming weeks; following this, we will be able to formally kick off phase one of the projects, which will be focused on establishing the vision and objectives for the masterplan."

One item certain to be on the agenda is the renovation of the tunnel area, and there has long been speculation that a second tier might be added to the South Stand, thereby increasing capacity to 88,000, only 2,000 short of England's national stadium at Wembley. Management would not be drawn on specifics that may have been explored nor the financial commitment envisaged. Andrew Wood, the club's director of media relations and public affairs said: "It is too early to speculate about costs and financing models."

The news comes at a time of considerable activity in stadium development with many other clubs also investing in new or improved stadia, including the two Merseyside giants Liverpool and Everton, Birmingham's Aston Villa and London's Crystal Palace.

Government pledges massive investment in Sizewell C

Nuclear energy is gradually emerging from the shadow of widespread public opposition and the disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima to be seen as a major alternative to fossil fuels, which are not only environmentally damaging but also rocketing in price. The Sizewell C project in Suffolk will be a significant provider for the UK's future energy needs. The government's previous planned contribution of £100 million will now soar to £4 billion as it pledges to take a 20 per cent stake in the plant, which the French state-owned company EDF will match.

A spokesperson for the UK government commented: "As the prime minister has said, nuclear will be a key part of our upcoming energy security strategy alongside renewables. We are committed to scaling up our nuclear electricity generation capacity and building more nuclear power here in the UK, and Sizewell C is an important part of our new nuclear programme."

With 40 per cent securely in the hands of government-controlled entities, it is hoped that the private sector will be encouraged to deliver the remaining 60 per cent. The prime minister recently asserted that his government's policy was to move away from reliance on imported oil from Russia, although the current figure is only about 8 per cent of total UK consumption. It is likely that the wider plan is to limit dependence on any imports, including those from the USA and Saudi Arabia. The government is also determined to exploit the hydrocarbons which occur naturally in the UK. Its developing energy policy incorporates plans for both major nuclear projects on the scale of Sizewell C, as well as small modular reactors and other renewables.

High level talks have been held with leaders in the nuclear and construction industries including Balfour Beatty, Mace and L&G. With seven of the UK's eight existing nuclear plants due to be taken out of service by 2030, Sizewell C will be an important companion to Hinkley Point C, currently being built by EDF and due to enter service in 2026.

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