The future of nuclear fuel production on the Fylde is facing a crucial few months awaiting a decision over a new power plant in Cumbria.
The 1,800 jobs at Westinghouse’s Springfields fuel plant at Salwick depend on producing fuel rods for the ageing AGR gas-cooled reactors which are set to be phased out over the next decade.
Hopes for more long term production depend on the proposed 3.6GW reactor at the Moorside site near Sellafield.
Westinghouse’s parent Toshiba is negotiating with Nugen the company which holds the licence to build the new reactor and a decision on a buy-in to the consortium is due before the end of the year.
Its rival EDF of France rencently won the contract to build the two new reactors at Hinckley, for which fuel is likely to be made in France.
However, hopes are high that the two Cumbria reactors on the new site will be AP1000 Pressurized Water types which are made by Westinghouse and which would take fuel from Springfields providing jobs there for decades to come.
Fylde MP Mark Menzies has been urging the Government to go with the AP1000 plan and said that it was vital for the country’s future skills and technology base that Springfields had a role in supplying fuel.
He said: “Ultimately it will be a commercial decision as to which consortium wins the contract but the Government does have a role in shaping the debate. The Government is very much aware of the importance of domestic manufacturing of nuclear fuel.
“It is also about skills. Retaining your ability to stay at the fore front of nucelar technology is vital.
“I have lobbied ministers to make the case as to why it is vital that the Westinghouse reactor should be chosen. While I appreciate it will be a commercial decision we should do everything we can to retain jobs and skills at the site.
“I have raised energy questions in parliament and met senior management from Westinghouse both at the site and at Westminster and have been working to put the case for the Westinghouse reactor.”
Since its origins in the 1940s, Springfields has provided nuclear fuel, for LWR, AGR and Magnox fuel, and conversion services for uranium hexafluoride.