Up to 1,600 nuclear plant workers will be made redundant as the UK ceases the operation of obsolete power plants.
Out of the 12 nuclear power stations equipped with the 1950s Magnox nuclear reactors, only one is still producing energy for the grid – the plant at Wylfa in Anglesey, North Wales.
The shutdown of the Wylfa plant is scheduled for the end of 2015, at which point the operator Magnox will have to start reducing its staff as most of the workers won’t be needed for the decommissioning phase.
"These proposed reductions arise from planned step-downs in the work programme at a number of sites and the implementation of a more streamlined operating model for delivering decommissioning,” the firm said in a statement.
"We will seek wherever possible for these reductions to be through voluntary means and we will endeavour to retrain staff in roles where we are currently reliant on agency resources.”
By September 2016 the firm will have cut up to 1,600 positions, including agency and contract workers, according to the restructuring plans.
"We are now going through a period of formal collective consultation with our recognised trade unions and individual consultation and counselling staff before an appropriate best-fit exercise begins," said the statement.
In addition to the Wylfa plant, Magnox is also managing the Trawsfynydd site in North Wales; Berkeley and Oldbury in Gloucestershire; Bradwell in Essex; Chapelcross in Dumfriesshire; Dungeness A in Kent; Harwell in Oxfordshire; Hinkley Point A in Somerset; Hunterston A in Ayrshire; Sizewell in Suffolk and Winfrith in Dorset.
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority said: "The NDA has been assured that efforts will be undertaken to mitigate the impact of any job losses through an emphasis on voluntary redundancy, re-skilling and the potential for alternative employment in Magnox Limited's parent companies, Cavendish Nuclear and Fluor Corporation."
Representatives of the unions said they were shocked by the proposed extent of the redundancies, calling for the decommissioning to be slowed down.
"Some redundancies were expected, but not on this scale,” said Kevin Coyne, national officer of the Unite union. “It will lead to a loss of vital skills and expertise in the nuclear industry which could have an impact on new nuclear build.”
According to Gary Smith of the GMB union, it was believed before most of the affected workers would be able to relocate to newly built nuclear power plants. However, with the projects being delayed, the future of those workers is now uncertain.
"We will seek talks with Magnox and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to discuss these job losses and the lack of progress on nuclear new-build,” said Smith.
"GMB has concerns that these job losses are the thin edge of the wedge when more job losses will follow the now-expected Tory cuts to the NDA budget next month.
"This is likely to lead to local people not getting the decommissioning they were promised. It is also a false economy as putting off the promised clean-up will make completing the work more expensive in the long run."