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MPs voice support for Springfields Nuclear Fuels at Parliamentary debate

8 September 2021

MPs from across the political spectrum expressed their support for Springfields Nuclear Fuels in a debate at Westminster Hall where they considered a motion on continued nuclear fuel manufacturing in the UK.

Rally for Spingfields Fuels at Parliament on Tuesday 7 September 2021

Moving the motion, Mark Menzies MP (Conservative) said about Springfields:

“It is not just a nuclear fuel manufacturing plant; it is the United Kingdom’s only nuclear fuel manufacturing plant, so by any definition that makes it a key UK strategic asset.

“Beyond that strategic importance, over 800 people are employed directly at Springfields, with employees hailing from the full breadth of the north-west’s nuclear arc, and with the wider supply chain employing countless thousands more.”

The MP for Fylde added that the government’s own estimates indicated that Springfields supports more than 4,000 jobs across the north-west of England.

The future of the plant was placed in jeopardy when EDF Energy announced its plan to bring forward the closure of Hunterston nuclear power station, with a fear that other EDF plants may follow suit.

Springfields is facing a sharp drop-off in demand for its services, with a consequent impact on jobs and an irreplaceable loss of skills as a result.

“I pay tribute to Unite and Prospect for the incredible way in which they have engaged on a cross-party basis to represent the interests of their workforce,” said Mr Menzies.

Earlier on the same day of the debate, many MPs had also turned up at College Green outside the Palace of Westminster for a rally in support of Springfields.

Listen to Ed Miliband MP, shadow business and energy secretary, talking to Prospect at the rally.

New nuclear and Net Zero

Many of the MPs spoke at the Westminster Hall debate about the urgent need for the government to give concrete commitments for new nuclear.

Liz Saville Roberts MP (Plaid Cymru) has long championed a new generation of nuclear plants, the Small Modular Reactors.

“Trawsfynydd in my constituency is widely recognised as one of the best sites, and the first of its kind, for SMR. His [Mark Menzies’] point about the risk of losing skills relating to fuels and generation per se is critical. If the Government are serious about looking at nuclear among our options, we have to maintain those skills,” she said.

Sir Mark Hendrick MP (Labour) spoke about the importance of nuclear if we are to achieve a carbon free future.

“Nuclear power is one of the largest and most reliable sources of low-carbon energy and electricity in the UK. It has an essential role to play in the transition to net zero. The UK currently has only one new power station under construction,” he said.

“Without rapid progress, we will have what is referred to as a nuclear gap. The nuclear gap currently means that the UK’s only domestic nuclear fuel manufacturer, Springfields in Lancashire, is facing a very uncertain future.”

The MP for Preston concluded his remarks by saying “investing in new nuclear is a no-brainer, so let us get on with it.”

Paul Maynard MP (Conservative) opened his remarks by thanking the unions, Prospect and Unite, for showing him around the Springfields site a few weeks ago.

“I also pay tribute to the workers down the years—60 or 70 years—at Springfields, many of them my constituents… The site has been one of the key drivers of our nuclear industry in the post-war era, underpinning so much of our economic development.”

He added:

“In my view, there should be a guarantee of UK fuels for UK reactors written into all future contracts… Warm words today will not be enough for my constituents, who want an action plan to bridge the nuclear gap, secure their own jobs and secure the nuclear future of this country.”

Chris Green MP (Conservative) said that he had also visited Springfields and said the “amazing facility was not just key to our nuclear future but in the framework of our energy future—and the importance of nuclear as a reliable form of energy.”

He added: “I hear the COP26 President speak passionately on a regular basis about other forms of energy, but I do not hear the same passion about the nuclear industry. We need to hear far more about the British Government’s commitment to the sector—not just Springfields but the sector more widely—because that is what creates confidence.”

Frontbench and government responses

Shadow business and energy minister, Dr Alan Whitehead, said that the country could not afford to lose some of its workforce and their skills at Springfields – even if it was able survive the ‘valley of death’ before more work comes through.

“Its ability to spring back may well have expired in the meantime,” he said.

Dr Whitehead also asked if the government was prepared to play a bigger role in securing the future of the site.

He asked: “As a national asset, perhaps it should be a government agency, so that we can secure its activities for the future in a way that befits its importance to the country.”

Amanda Solloway MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, gave the government’s response at the end of the debate.

She began by “reaffirming the strategic importance of maintaining our sovereign fuel manufacturing capability” and also said that the government “will bring forward legislation in this Parliament that will further commit us to creating more nuclear power in this country.”

She said her department, BEIS, was working closely with the owners of the Springfields plant, Westinghouse, the National Nuclear Laboratory and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to explore opportunities to support the workforce on the Springfields site.

She concluded:

“The Government have made a clear commitment to nuclear as part of our future low-carbon energy mix. The UK’s success in achieving our net zero ambitions will be underpinned by the critical work carried out in the civil nuclear supply chain. We will continue to work with the nuclear industry to maintain our sovereign capability and the benefits that it brings for the local workforce and surrounding communities.”


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