Ministers need to give leadership and provide public finance, as UK’s energy policy ‘lurches from confusion to potential chaos’, with the latest developments at the Moorside nuclear power station in Cumbria.
Unite was commenting today (April 5) on the news that French company ENGIE, earmarked to operate the site, has pulled out of the NuGen consortium.
NuGen is a joint venture also involving Toshiba which owns the troubled Westinghouse Electric Company due to supply the three AP1000 reactors for the Moorside site, near Sellafield.
Now, after ENGIE has sold its 40 per cent stake in the NuGen consortium, Toshiba is the sole investor in the project.
The news has sparked concerns that the French company pulling out of the project could lead to unsustainable delays, just after the Hinkley Point C project experienced years of delays — it was only give the green light last year.
A business department spokesman said that the UK government is “committed to new nuclear as an important part of our energy mix, having commissioned the first new nuclear power plant in a generation at Hinkley Point C.”
“The NuGen consortium has always planned to bring in other partners to deliver the project and we engage regularly with a range of developers and investors,” he added.
“The secretary of state [Greg Clark] is currently in South Korea for talks on future collaboration between our two countries, including on potential civil nuclear projects.”
But Unite national officer for energy Kevin Coyne warned that the government needs to step up with a clear energy policy now.
“Unite will be writing to business secretary Greg Clark as a matter of urgency asking for clarity on the UK’s energy policy, with particular reference to Moorside and the need for substantial public investment to ensure that the plant proceeds on schedule,” he said.
“Unite has repeatedly warned the government that ‘the lights could go out’ in the future without a coherent, joined-up energy policy.
“The latest developments at Moorside, which is due to supply seven per cent of the UK’s electricity needs from 2025, does not inspire confidence,” he added. “We appear to be lurching from confusion to potential chaos – and this is a cause for serious concern.
“We are also worried about the future of Springfields nuclear fuel manufacturing facility, near Preston, operated by Westinghouse, which has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US.
“Springfields is in line to supply the fuel for Moorside. Unite has a 1,000 members at Springfields and their future employment prospects are a top priority for the union.
“Moorside is expected to generate 20,000 highly skilled jobs during its construction and when it is up-and-running – and will be a major economic accelerator for the north west,” Coyne explained. “We need to nurture and protect these skilled jobs, if the Northern Powerhouse is to become a reality in the next decade.
“The case for the government to underpin, with public investment, the financial future of the Moorside project is becoming more unanswerable by the day. The private sector has not made a great success of Moorside to date.”
- Picture is a computer generated image of the AP1000 reactor