The jobs of more than 700 workers in Hartlepool have been safeguarded.
The good news boost was confirmed today thanks to Hartlepool’s nuclear power station which has been granted another life extension.
The plant already had permission to operate to 2019. Now, that has been extended until at least 2024.
In another boost announced today, a massive £40m is to be injected into the plant to make sure it continues to meet the highest standards of the nuclear industry.
Owners EDF Energy confirmed Hartlepool was one of four stations in the EDF portfolio to get the extension.
Station director Simon Parsons told the Hartlepool Mail: “It is great news for everyone who works here and their families - and the North East. It is something to celebrate.”
It is great news for everyone who works here and their families - and the North East.Station director Simon Parsons
The news also has implications for Hartlepool as a whole. Wages alone are £40m a year which goes in to the local economy, and 90 per cent of the workforce comes from within ten miles of the plant, said Mr Parsons.
He described the plant extension as “fantastic news. I am over the moon.”
Extra investment will be lined up to make sure the Hartlepool site is fit to continue to serve the energy industry.
“We think we need to put £40m investment over five years and review plant systems and engineering systems,” said Mr Parsons.
“The plant is 32 years old and we need to make sure that the systems are still up to date.”
The lifespan extension is good news for the 520 EDF staff and 200 core suppliers who work at the power station.
The plant generates 1,200 megawatts of electricity which is enough to power 1.5 million homes - or about two per cent of Britain’s households. And the newly agreed lifespan may not be the last to be considered for Hartlepool.
Mr Parsons added: “We will continue to review it as the years go on. If we could get another one or two, it could be an aspiration of ours.”
Yet even when the time comes for the plant to close, there will still be work for many people.
Mr Parsons said: “We are talking to the Government about what part we can play in defuelling the station. People can continue to have a career here.
“I can’t imagine a world where you cut jobs at the station.
“It is not our intention to be cutting jobs to support a fall in the wholesale price of electricity.
“Last year, we had our best generation of performance as a fleet of power stations. That is encouraging on the back of a wholesale market drop.”
He added: “We are operating in a changing market place and the wholesale price of electricity is the biggest difference to a couple of years ago.”
Yet as well as jobs protection, EDF bosses are also expecting to create employment in the future.
Their latest recruitment programme will see six more apprentices join the Hartlepool plant.
And it is understood that many jobs could be vacant when more elderly staff on the current workforce take retirement.