CRUCIAL talks will be held in a bid to prevent industrial action by thousands of nuclear workers.

Union leaders representing workers, including those at Bradwell, are discussing calling a strike ballot in a row over pensions.

The unions are set to urge the Government to suspend consultation on controversial plans to reform pensions of Nuclear Decommissioning Authority employees.

The unions say 16,000 workers at 19 sites face cuts under the plans to make savings of £660 million.

Unions met with energy minster Jesse Norman on Wednesday.

In a joint statement Unite, GMB and Aslef said they hoped the meeting had “opened up the possibility of genuine negotiations” to take place.

Unite national officer for energy Kevin Coyne, said: “We had a frank and wide-ranging meeting with the energy minister Jesse Norman today.

"More talks will be held to discuss further options relating to the pensions of our members working for the NDA, with a deadline for a conclusion of those negotiations in a fortnight’s time.

“We hope that a constructive settlement can be reached that will ensure that the pensions, which our members have saved for so hard over many years, receive adequate protections underpinned by copper-bottomed guarantees.

"At this stage, industrial action can be seen as a last resort.”

Justin Bowden, GMB national secretary for the nuclear sector, said: "GMB has delayed announcing the start of the strike ballot process following constructive talks with the minister in which we impressed upon him the urgency of the situation.

"Whilst we are not out of the woods yet by any means, and this issue will continue to dominate the Copeland by-election, the meeting has opened up the possibility of genuine negotiations to take place for the first time around the £660 million broken promises nuclear pensions’ dispute.

“The talks will start immediately and the unions will meet again with the minister within the next fortnight.”

Colin Smith, north west district organiser for Aslef, the train drivers' union, said: “Aslef welcomes new, urgent talks to address this vicious, premeditated and completely unprovoked attack on the pensions of nuclear workers, their families and communities.”