Whitehaven News

The Whitehaven News


Thursday, May 03, 2001

HUGE new orders worth many millions of pounds are on the way to BNFL from Germany to clinch the future of Sellafield's Mox plutonium-recycling plant on which thousands of long-term West Cumbrian jobs depend.

The fate of the £400 million Mox plant hangs in the balance. Until the government decides whether or not to grant a licence to operate after another round of public consultations into its economic viability the plant cannot operate despite having orders.

But today The Whitehaven News can reveal that BNFL has struck a big deal with one of its major customers to land its biggest ever Mox contract representing a 14 per cent increase on the order book.

It comes as a massive and timely boost for the company and the Sellafield workforce who are worried about their futures. Thousands of jobs are at risk if the government gives the thumbs down to Mox because the plant is needed to recycle the plutonium from Thorp reprocessing.

BNFL, who yesterday confirmed the deal after telling workers internally, has signed a Heads of Agreement with the German customer E.ON and this paves the way for a package of multi-million pound business.

Twelve of Germany's 19 nuclear power stations are run by E.ON who are also BNFL's biggest single customer world wide.

BNFL was already banking on the government allowing the Mox plant to operate on the strength of a revised business case which the company described as strong. The new orders will come on the back of this.

A BNFL spokesman said: "The package deal includes a commitment by E.ON to incorporate all of their separated plutonium arisings at Sellafield into Mox fue , the largest single Mox contract for the plant to date, further strengthening the already robust case for the operation of the Mox plant and increasing the amount of contracted\ reserved business for it from 22 per cent to over 36 per cent."

Copeland MP Jack Cunningham said: "After all the anxiety, this is a tremendous lift for BNFL and the workforce." Copeland Tory leader Mike Graham enthused: "It's big business for Sellafield and West Cumbria. All we need now is the licence."

Site GMB union convenor John Kane said: "Provided we get the licence we can get the business. It's a major morale boost for the workforce and very timely."

Sellafield bosses are delighted and BNFL chief executive Norman Askew admitted: "It is a major step forward. Our customers are now showing their support through new agreements and the message that they want SMP brought into operation is now crystal clear."

nANOTHER 40 jobs are to go at Marchon with the closure of the lubricant additives plant in 12 months.

"It is deplorable, a total shock," said GMB regional organiser Ged Caig yesterday. "These 40 job losses were never expected in a plant which made a £4 million profit last year. There has been no consultation and I am devastated."

Site director Tony McGrath said: "Staff on the site have known for a number of months of the intention to sell this business and the likelihood that a sale would lead to the operations being closed in the future. Consultations will start immediately about the 40 jobs and terms and conditions. We will try to get jobs with Rhodia either on site or elsewhere for anyone who wants to stay."

The sale is to RohMax Additives which will transfer the work from Whitehaven to one of its sites in Europe, Canada and the United States.

The 40 jobs are on top of the 80 axed recently through plant closures.