Springfields has told some staff there are to be 120 redundancies, which unions Prospect and Unite warn risks hollowing out the skills base at the site which employs around 800 people near Preston in Lancashire, and supports 4,000 jobs in the wider supply chain.
Around 32% of all low carbon energy generated in the UK comes from fuel manufactured at Springfields, and the site would be critical to the next generation of nuclear power stations promised by the government in the 10 Point Plan for Net Zero published last year.
In the Nuclear Sector Deal published in 2018, the government claimed: “The government recognises the strategic national importance of maintaining its fuel capabilities and will work with UK nuclear fuel industry to ensure continued, commercial operation of these facilities to deliver future energy security as well as ensuring the UK nuclear fuel industry continues to deliver long-term UK economic benefit”.
However, despite arguing that new nuclear is critical for Net Zero, the government continue to drag their feet over agreeing contracts for new nuclear facilities, with only one currently under construction at Hinkley Point, Somerset. The result is a gap in the demand for nuclear fuel which has led to the job losses at Springfields.
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail, said: “The loss of 120 jobs at the successful Springfields Fuels facility near Preston is to be strongly deplored and we will be asking the company for the business rationale behind this decision. The management should not be allowed to erode the capability of this key strategic national asset on the sole grounds of increasing profits.
“There is strong cross-party support in Lancashire that these highly skilled jobs can’t be lost – as once they are gone, they could be lost forever to the long-term detriment of the UK economy.
“The threat to these jobs reinforces the need for the government to urgently bring forward its ‘mixed’ energy policy, including carbon-free nuclear, as a cornerstone of the much-heralded industrial strategy for the post-Brexit, post-Covid UK economy.
“Such a policy would support the government’s speeded up proposal to cut the UK’s carbon emissions by 78 per cent by 2035.
“Unite will be giving maximum support to our members and their families in the weeks and months ahead – and liaising with key stakeholders to safeguard these jobs.”
Prospect senior deputy general secretary Sue Ferns, said: “This news is a hammer blow not only to the workforce at Springfields and the local economy in Lancashire but to our chances of achieving Net Zero.
“It is clear that the owners of Springfields have given up on waiting for the government and are now simply trying to maximise their own profits with no thought for the long-term future of the site or the nuclear industry in the UK.
“Springfields is a national success story and should be at the heart of both the drive for Net Zero and the levelling up agenda, but instead years of indecision and short-termism have put the whole future of nuclear fuel manufacturing at risk.
“It is time for government to finally take this issue seriously, and work with unions and other stakeholders to save the site, the jobs, and the future of this strategically critical industry.”