AN award-winning East Lancashire manufacturer has created a new company to tap into the multi-million pound nuclear sector.

Fort Vale Nuclear Ltd will be launched on March 1 and operate as a stand-alone company working alongside the firm’s core engineering business.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has an annual expenditure of around £3 billion and with 20 per cent of the spend designated for SMEs by 2015, Fort Vale is positioning itself to be a supplier in a long-term market.

Peter Staveley, Fort Vale’s director of quality and general manager of the new company, said: “The foresight of chairman Ted Fort and managing director Ian Wilson to invest into the expansive site that we have here at Simonstone has allowed us to make inroads into the nuclear market. In 2008 we were looking for opportunities to diversify as a business. We opted to look for something that built on our existing competences and skills and which was engineering based, but potentially did not follow the economic cycles of our core business.

“One attraction of the nuclear market is that it is relatively recession proof. It’s one of the only budgets the Government ring fences. You can’t turn off radioactive waste. It still has to be managed and maintained.”

Fort Vale, a four-times Queen’s Award winner for export success became involved in the nuclear industry six years ago.

Since then, the Simonstone company, which has a worldwide workforce of more than 500 and a turnover in excess of £60 million, has secured framework agreements with two leading companies, including as a preferred machining supplier to Nuclear Engineering Services Limited Employees currently operating full-time in the nuclear division will move over to the newly-created company, with the likelihood of new jobs to follow.