Unions demand new owner to save Preston’s Springfields nuclear jobs
- Wednesday 22 September 2021
The Unite and Prospect unions, which represent workers at Springfields Nuclear Fuels near Preston, have called for the government to look at changing the ownership model of the site.
In a joint statement the unions say that maintaining sovereign capability in nuclear fuel manufacture is essential for achieving net zero and for protecting jobs and skills. They express concern that an impending gap in demand and a lack of guarantees from the current ownership means that the future of the facility could be in doubt.
The statement says:
As trade unions representing the highly skilled workforce at Springfields, we are increasingly concerned that the current ownership model is becoming a potential obstacle to preserving the site and the jobs that depend on it.
Westinghouse, the current owners, have so far failed to provide cast-iron guarantees on the future of fuel manufacturing at the site and have failed to bring in additional work either from their own reactors abroad or to fuel the reactors of their competitors.
Unless this situation changes, we believe that the government should consider an alternative ownership structure that will maximise the possibility of protecting the site and maintaining this vital sovereign capability.
The unions point to the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) and Nuclear Decommissioning Authority as potential owners, highlighting NNL’s existing presence on the Springfields site and interest in fuel manufacture.
The statement continues:
We therefore call on government to urgently develop options for alternative ownership structures for Springfields, with the aim of protecting sovereign capability and securing the future of UK nuclear fuel.
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “As a nuclear nation with an urgent commitment to tackling the climate crisis by achieving net zero, it is a matter of national importance that the UK is able to produce its own supply of reactor fuel.
“Under Westinghouse, Springfield’s key position as the guarantor of the UK’s nuclear fuel security is in doubt. Nor is it just the site’s manufacturing capabilities that are being put at risk. The highly specialised workforce is also in danger of being lost. Once such skills and experience go, it is incredibly hard to get them back.
“Ministers must consider all ownership options for Springfields in order to retain the UK’s sovereign capability to produce nuclear fuel, including facilitating a transfer of ownership to NNL.”
Sue Ferns, senior deputy general secretary of Prospect said: "It is our firm belief that maintaining sovereign capability in nuclear fuel manufacture at Springfields is vital to energy security, achieving net zero, and retaining the skills we will need for the green economy of the future. We have become increasingly concerned that the current ownership model does not maximise the chances of securing the long-term future of fuel manufacturing at the site.
"The best way forward that we can see is to bring Springfields into a form of public ownership on a temporary or permanent basis and we urge the government to urgently develop options for alternative ownership structures.
"The current energy crisis demonstrates the importance of taking strategic decisions to diversify our energy supply and ensure we are never over reliant on variable output or on imports from abroad. By taking this step the government could send a strong signal that they are willing to do what it takes to guarantee our energy security in the coming years.”
Download the statement here: https://library.prospect.org.uk/download/2021/00855
For media enquires ONLY contact Unite communications officer Ryan Fletcher on 07849 090215.
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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Sharon Graham.