New reactors, new workforce

01 December 2011

The UK nuclear sector workforce will need to grow by about half before 2025, offering significant employment prospects for young people.


The 68% figure is based on information given by Neil Baldwin, the chairman of the country's National Nuclear Skills Academy and managing director of reactor operator Magnox Ltd. He was speaking to the Nuclear Industry Association's annual Energy Choices conference held today in London.


Looking ahead to 2025 Baldwin said some 8500 people will leave the UK industry due to retirement, adding that these make up about one third of the current nuclear-specific workforce. Meanwhile, projections by the academy indicate that UK employers could hire about 1500 new staff each year to fill nuclear-qualified roles.


A rough calculation based on these figures places the current total headcount of the UK nuclear workforce at about 25,500. Allowing for 8500 to retire and 1500 a year to join, the total workforce should grow by 49% to 38,000 by 2025. Many more non-nuclear jobs in the industry would come at the same time in related engineering fields and across the range of specialisms within modern companies.


These figures are based on the continuation of the country's decomissioning program, which accounts for around £2 billion ($3 billion) of work each year on dismantling former national nuclear power and research facilities, as well as a certain amount of new nuclear power plants. Three companies are working on plans for new large reactors, with 12 units totalling 19 GWe capacity a possibility by 2023.


Baldwin started his presentation with a reference to the UK's current economic situation, which has seen more than 1 million people aged 16 to 24 recorded as not in education, employment or training - the highest such figure since 1986.


This age group makes up less than 5% of the current nuclear workforce; but this is not for lack of interest: the graduate scheme run by Magnox Ltd has been "overwhelmed" and "massively oversubscribed" by interested young people. "Tens of jobs working on Magnox nuclear power plants get thousands of applications," said Baldwin.


Sharing the stage, Stephen Henwood, chairman of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, said there had been over 3000 applications for its graduate scheme - again for 'tens' of places.


Among the reasons for this rate of interest is a recognition of what Baldwin called the "impeccable pedigree" of training provided by nuclear organisations over the years in the UK, as well as the longevity of nuclear jobs: "This is not a job that's good for six months and then gone."


Researched and written
by World Nuclear News