A NUCLEAR contract win could help speed up a Teesside engineering firm's plans for an £8m factory.
Darchem Engineering has won a multi-million-pound contract - its first in the nuclear sector for two decades - creating 20 new jobs.
The specialist fabrication contract for ACKtiv Nuclear will shore up expansion plans for a factory at Darchem’s Stillington site that will create a further 100 jobs, as the company grows its share in the burgeoning nuclear market.
Darchem was forced to shed more than a tenth of its workforce in early 2010 following a steep decline in defence and aerospace orders, but has since employed 100 more staff, taking numbers to 650.
Managing director, Graham Payne, said: “This contract is a very specialised complex fabrication project that will go into the current nuclear fleet - we’re delighted with the new order.”
The company pulled out of the then-diminishing nuclear market in the mid-1990s, after the Sizewell B programme ended. It shifted focus to the aerospace, marine and oil and gas sectors, while remaining a large supplier of fire protection and insulation products for nuclear projects globally.
“We are trying to reposition ourselves in the nuclear market,” said Mr Payne. “Nuclear is around 10% of the overall UK mix at the moment, but we believe it could grow to 50% in the future.
“The new civil fleet programme complements our skills very well, we already have a large fabrication capability in other sectors.
“This contract will create 20 high-skilled jobs, right at the top of the manufacturing tree, but it fits with us very well because of our work in defence contracts. We have been producing heavy specialised fabrications, principally stainless steel.
“The nuclear programme can benefit Teesside considerably, whether it’s more employment or companies providing services.
“It’s a massive growth opportunity for our business and for the region.”
Last year the Government announced sites for the first wave of new nuclear power plants, to replace the current ageing UK fleet, including Hinkley Point in Somerset and Wylfa in Anglesey.
Work on the first plant is expected to be complete by 2019 at the earliest.
Darchem has also been awarded a £1m grant from the Regional Growth Fund, which will go towards its expansion plans.