A deal by Japanese energy giants to buy fuel from a Lancashire factory would bring a century of work to the county and secure up to 1,000 jobs, union chiefs have said.
Trade union leaders are urging the new owner of land earmarked for a pair of nuclear power stations to buy fuel from Springfield Fuels, at Salwick, near Preston.
Nuclear workers’ union Prospect will be writing to Energy Minister John Hayes calling on him to ensure Japanese giant Hitachi buys fuel for its reactors from the county factory.
That deal would ensure up to 1,000 jobs are safe.
It follows an announcement on Tuesday that Springfields’ owner, energy giant Westinghouse, had failed in its bid to buy Horizon Nuclear Power which will build reactors in Anglesey and Gloucestershire as part of Britain’s nuclear renaissance.
Prospect general secretary Mike Graham said fuel for Hitachi’s Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) model could not be made in the UK, but insisted Springfields had the potential to build it.
He said: “It would mean different production lines which cost money, but Springfields has a ready-made facility with a highly-skilled workforce, so it is very possible.
“I know the Government would not be happy with fuel being transported from other parts of the world and the cost of doing that would be enormous, it would not make commercial sense for Hitachi.
“We will be working with all the relevant parties to put forward a strong case for the manufacture of this fuel at Springfields.”
On Wednesday, Westinghouse UK chief executive Mike Tynan admitted he was “disappointed” at his firm’s failure to buy Horizon, but insisted its AP1000 reactor technology was still “ideally suited” to the UK.
He said it still intended to use fuel from the Springfields site for any AP1000 reactors it builds in the UK or elsewhere in Europe, although it is yet to secure a deal to build one.
Mr Tynan said: “We will continue to work with other customers in the UK and elsewhere in the world to offer the AP1000.”
Westinghouse is in talks with Nugen, the European developer which owns land at Moorside next to Sellafield, Cumbria, about picking the AP1000 to build on the site, and is looking at opportunities in the Czech Republic and Poland.
Mr Graham added: “The problem is the Czech Republic and Poland are a long way from Lancashire so, even if Westinghouse is successful in these markets, there is no guarantees in the long-term.”
Fylde MP Mark Menzies, whose constituency includes the Salwick site, said he had already spoken with John Hayes to voice his fears and would meet with him again later this week.
He said Springfields could be handed the contract to build fuel for the Hitachi reactors under licence to avoid a conflict of interests with its rival, Westinghouse.
The Conservative MP said: “The world is a changing place and I think we cannot assume nuclear fuel can be transported into the UK from overseas over the life of a nuclear reactor, which can be many decades.
“We cannot put the security of our nation’s energy supply at risk in this manner.”
He added the danger of losing skills from Lancashire’s nuclear industry would be “a significant risk” if a long-term flow of work could not be pumped into Springfields.
Mr Menzies said: “Prior to taking on his role in the Department for Energy, John Hayes held a brief on skills, so this is a minister who recognises the need to retain world-class skills in this country/
“I would be very surprised if I did not get a sympathetic hearing.”
He warned failure to land a deal to build in the UK posed “a small risk” of Westinghouse pulling its UK head office out of Buckshaw Village, near Chorley, which it had promised to ramp up with hundreds of extra jobs if it builds its AP1000 reactor in the UK.
Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle has called for the Government to support Westinghouse’s future bids to build its reactors in the UK, although the next opportunity after Sellafield could be a decade away.
He said: “We cannot put all our eggs in one basket and I am sure Westinghouse will come out on top in the future.”