GMB, Prospect, TUC and Unite say government must not allow sun to set on Horizon

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Unions have urged the government to step in after Eon and RWE today said they were pulling out of developing two new nuclear power stations in Britain.

The news that the two German companies behind Horizon Nuclear Power are to withdraw from plans to build new nuclear plants at Wylfa in North Wales and Oldbury in South Gloucestershire will affect hundreds of jobs in the UK.

Prospect general secretary designate Mike Clancy said: “”At a time when we face the closure of several large coal-fired power stations between now and the end of 2015, the Horizon venture was to be a major contributor in achieving a new UK fleet of nuclear power stations to provide a secure low-carbon energy supply for the future.

“Without new investment, the knock-on economic consequences of this lost opportunity will stretch far beyond the immediate workforce given that the new build would have provided skilled employment in construction, manufacturing and throughout the supply chain for decades to come.

“We are seeking urgent meetings with ministers in both the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to press for every measure to be put in place to encourage new investors.

“We will also be working with community groups to build a broad coalition of support to get the necessary backing at local as well as national level.”

GMB national secretary for energy Gary Smith said:  “The government’s energy strategy is in tatters. It is really bad news in terms of construction jobs and the potential employment that would have been created in the UK manufacturing supply chain.

“New nuclear is an essential component in keeping the lights on in the UK. We can’t keep extending the life span of existing nuclear stations and renewables cannot fill the gap on their own.

“The government must act and now. We need an urgent discussion involving government, the industry and unions about where we go from here.

“David Cameron announced a partnership in nuclear with France during a recent visit to Paris. This is nonsense. Britain is going to be a bit player in what is a growing global industry. It simply isn’t good enough for Government to sit back and hope it’s all going to come good.

“North Sea oil and gas shows that how British engineering industries can be global players. The opportunities in the nuclear industry are similar.

“We believe the time has come for a debate about a proper Anglo-French alliance in nuclear in which Britain is at the fore. We should be looking at trying to create an Airbus in the nuclear industry and not announcing what are meaningless partnerships.”

Unite national officer Kevin Coyne said: “The UK government must not allow this crucial UK project to fail because of decisions being made in Germany. Britain needs Project Horizon to succeed for the sake of our  future energy needs and thousands of skilled jobs which would be created as a result.

“The government must urgently do everything possible to get Project Horizon back on track by finding buyer to take over the project.”

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “This is a major jobs blow for the construction and engineering sectors. But it also exposes the government’s position. If you think nuclear power has an important role in decarbonising the economy, as ministers say, then you have to make sure that these kinds of very long-term investments occur.
“You cannot let your strategy for dealing with climate change – our biggest long-term challenge – be subject to the short-term whims of the market.”

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