Sellafield nuclear plant workers have launched a campaign to attract fresh investment to the site.
They are calling for a new nuclear power station in the area and the possible reuse of plutonium stocks.
The Sellafield Workers Campaign said the plant could generate more than £1bn locally over the next five years.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change acknowledged Cumbria’s role, but said the decision about the location of new plants was up to developers.
“Without Sellafield, Cumbria would become an economic wilderness while Britain would struggle to meet its low-carbon energy needs.”
He said the campaign was calling for “a sustained and coordinated investment strategy” including a commitment to a new nuclear power station.
“However, it is also crucial that we begin a new search for a geological disposal facility and we examine ways of effectively re-using the stockpiles of plutonium currently being stored at Sellafield,” he said.
The decommissioning process at Sellafield is under way with the final site clearance set for 2120.
Dr Ruth Balogh, nuclear issues campaigner for West Cumbria and North Lakes Friends of the Earth, rejected suggestions that Cumbria needed a new nuclear plant.
She said: “They are wrong about the ‘economic wasteland’. The decline of jobs at Sellafield is not a steep decline.
“We need to really grasp that Sellafield is a nuclear waste facility and we have to look after it properly.”
She said the Friends of the Earth group believed the only safe way to deal with plutonium was to immobilise it.
Dr Balogh said they had also published a report that suggested Cumbria could produce enough renewable energy to meet the population’s demands without the need for new nuclear developments.
Read more at Sellafield workers call for ‘sustained investment’