Westinghouse Electric Company has announced that it is in 'advanced discussions' with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) concerning a new organisational arrangement for the UK fuel site at Springfields near Preston.
These arrangements are looking at the introduction of a long term lease when the current site management contract ends on 31 March 2010, together with the permanent transfer of ownership of Springfields Fuels Ltd, the company managing the site, to Westinghouse.
Speaking at a journalist lunch on 10 September, Westinghouse CEO Aris Candris said, "Our plan is to start reinvigorating fuel production on the oxide side of the house going forward. Fortunately we have been gaining market share in fuel," he said, adding, "We are predicting capacity and capability constraints."
He said that the company would look to restart oxide fuel production for PWRs and ABWRs, and 'other applications specific to EDF'. Most of the UK's currently operating reactors are AGRs.
He also said, "We are also looking to new-build starting up in the UK, and hopefully we can take some business there. Synergies might exist. The AP1000 has modular construction, there is a role and a need for some modules to be constructed somewhere."
He also said that the company would look to make investment in stages. He said that he believed that any licencing hurdles to be overcome in restarting fuel manufacture would be insignificant.
John Clarke, NDA commercial director said: “The NDA has enjoyed a successful 5-year relationship with Westinghouse as the M&O contractor for Springfields. Its long term understanding of the site together with its experience as a nuclear fuel vendor makes Westinghouse a good partner to exploit the potential of the site. The NDA will work hard to ensure that this great opportunity to ensure continued employment and a long term platform for increased investment is a success. We will, of course, continue to deliver our Energy Act obligations in terms of the current nuclear liabilities in relation to the site.”
Westinghouse aims to have a deal signed by the end of March.
Dougie Rooney, national officer for workers' union Unite said:
"This is excellent news for skilled manufacturing jobs. The agreement would mean the retention of 1500 jobs and create a futher 500 jobs over the next five years.
"The deal would allow the nuclear fuel elements for the next generation of nuclear power stations (AP1000) to be manufactured at the Springfield site near Preston.
"Unite is now calling on the UK government to give more support to ensuring that the UK engineering supply chain gets a cut of the action in manufacturing components and equipment for the Westinghouse AP1000."