Hopes rise of saving Lancashire nuclear jobs as £75m funding is announced

Nuclear fuel manufacturing jobs in Lancashire have been given a lifeline with a £75m funding package from the government.

Friday, 29th October 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Friday, 29th October 2021, 2:24 pm

With only two new nuclear power stations being built and a raft of first generation nuclear power plants going off line in coming years, unions and workers had raised fears that skilled jobs would be lost in Lancashire in the interim period with no demand for fuel in the UK.

Almost 1,000 jobs are supported by nuclear fuel manufacturing at the Springfields site at Salwick between Preston and Blackpool and the area's Conservative MP Mark Menzies has been lobbying the government to protect these crucial skills which are of strategic importance to the nation.

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Westinbghouse's huge oxide fuel manufacturing complex at Springfields, Salwick

The Westinghouse plant at Springfields near Salwick is the UK’s only nuclear fuels production site and Fylde MP Mr Menzies hopes the funding which runs until 2025, will secure the future of the site and its workforce.

In recent years new nuclear projects at Wylfa in North Wales and Moorside near Sellafield in Cumbria have been stalled for a variety of reasons related to corporate funding, leaving just the Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C projects being built and which will supply constant base load electricity to the nation's grid.

No announcements have yet been made about where the fuel for those reactors will be made, but unions at Springfields are hoping they might get any contracts.

Mr Menzies welcomed the new funding announced in Rishi Sunak's Autumn Statement this month, and said: “I have been working incredibly hard alongside trade unions, Government representatives and Westinghouse to deliver support for the industry.

Fylde MP Mark Menzies

“I have always been clear there is a very bright future for our nuclear industry, which sustains thousands of highly skilled jobs at Springfields and in the wider supply chain.

“It is down to the dedication of all involved that we have reached this point.

“This is recognition of the importance of nuclear fuel manufacture in the UK and to the status of Springfields as a national strategic asset.

“I am grateful that this budget is investing in jobs and skills here in Fylde and that the Government has listened to and acted on the case we have made.”

The funding will be provided through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and is part of a wider package of investment in the UK nuclear industry, which is seen as a key part of the Government’s green agenda.

A number of funding measures to support future UK nuclear development were announced as part of the budget. They included £1.7bn to enable a large scale nuclear project and £385m through the Advanced Nuclear Fund to bring other projects forward.

The cash injection will boost the potential to deliver a new reactor at Sizewell C as well as hopefully reviving schemes such as the project at Wylfa in Anglesey, backed by Westinghouse and a potential development at Moorside in Cumbria.

£120m was also announced as part of the Future Nuclear Enabling Fund to support projects like Rolls Royce’s Small Modular Reactor, which could bring down the cost of future nuclear development in the UK.

The separate Nuclear Finance Bill, announced this week, will make it easier for firms to secure the huge capital investments needed to bring such projects to completion.

Mr Menzies said: “Clean, efficient nuclear power is now a key part of the Government’s net-zero strategy and the fuels which will power these next generation of plants can and should be manufactured here in Fylde.

“The key now, as demand for fuels declines in the short term, as older plants are decommissioned, is ensuring we retain the jobs and skills at Springfields, to be ready to supply the next generation of nuclear sites.

“This investment goes an enormous way to achieving that goal.”