Questions over Preston nuclear jobs future as Westinghouse files for US bankruptcy protection
A cloud is hanging over the future of nuclear jobs on in Preston and across the North West after a major employer's parent company in the USA filed for bankruptcy protection.
The Westinghouse Electrical Company has put in for US Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after failing to deal with huge losses that in turn have hit its parent company Toshiba.In the UK, Westinghouse owns the Springfields nuclear fuel making site at Salwick and, as part of Toshiba, is alongside with France's Engie, behind the huge Moorside nuclear power plant project set to see three new reactors near Sellafield to secure Britain's energy future.
The GMB union said that project could provide thousands of jobs in the region and added it was critical that the UK Government stepped in to give clarity to end uncertainty on the project.
Chris Jukes GMB senior organiser said: "Westinghouse is to build the reactors for the new plant. A collapse of the firm could delay the project or even put its future in limbo. This project could bring thousands of jobs to West Cumbria, lead to huge regeneration and infrastructure investment and provide as much as seven per cent of the UK's domestic energy needs.
"It is vital that this project is given the certainty it needs and therefore we are calling on an urgent Government announcement to give clear and unambiguous clarity for the short, medium and long term future of Moorside."
No firm details of how the US move will affect the British operations long term have yet been revealed, but the uncertainty and the crisis at Toshiba which saw its chairman Shigenori Shiga step down in February, could be set to delay any moves on the Moorside scheme.
Westinghouse Electrical Company LLC is battling to restructure its finances after being hit be costs due to two AP1000 nuclear reactor projects in in Georgia and South Carolina over-running. It is these reactors that it was hoping to build at Moorside and which would have their fuel made at Springfields securing county jobs for decades to come.
Springfields currently produces nuclear fuel which is used to provide 19 per cent of the UK's electricity at various nuclear power plants and Toshiba, despite its financial crisis has told the British Government it its still committed to Moorside.
Interim President and CEO José Emeterio Gutiérrez said: "“Today, we have taken action to put Westinghouse on a path to resolve our AP1000 financial challenges while protecting our core businesses.
“We are focused on developing a plan of reorganisation to emerge from Chapter 11 as a stronger company while continuing to be a global nuclear technology leader.”
Westinghouse has obtained $800m in debtor-in-possession financing from a backer to fund and protect its core businesses during its reorganisation, to support operating plants, nuclear fuel and components manufacturing and engineering as well as decommissioning, decontamination, remediation and waste management.
It said the company is working to reorganise around "these strong business units" and it added that it remained committed to its AP1000 technology which it sees as the best third generation nuclear power technology. The UK operation is seen as part of that strong operation.
It added: "Westinghouse’s operations in its Asia and Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Regions are not impacted by the Chapter 11 filings. Customers in those regions will continue to receive the high-quality products and services they have come to expect in the usual course as the regions will also be supported by the DIP financing."