Study quantifies job creation in the nuclear sector

26 October 2018

A study on the employment generated by the nuclear energy industry has been published by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Some 200,000 job-years of employment are created by each gigawatt of nuclear capacity constructed, it suggests.

Workers at the construction site of the Kursk II nuclear power plant in Russia (image: Rosenergoatom)

"The nuclear energy sector employs a considerable workforce around the world, and with nuclear power projected to grow in countries with increasing electricity demand, corresponding jobs in the nuclear power sector will also grow," the report says.

NEA and IAEA used the most available macroeconomic model to determine total employment - the 'input/output' model - to measure direct, indirect and induced employment from the nuclear power sector in a national economy. The authors used a combination of top-down and bottom-up approaches in an attempt to create a methodology that can be applied to all electricity sources.

The work was done in collaboration with employees at Areva, the Center for Advanced Energy Studies (Idaho, USA), the Generation-IV International Forum secretariat, the Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute, the US Nuclear Energy Institute, PriceWaterHouseCoopers Strategy Group, Rosatom Central Institute, and the University of Stuttgart.

"This report generalises and simplifies the modelling efforts of the OECD member countries (where macroeconomic models are generally available) to make them more applicable to other economies, in particular, those IAEA member states (where macroeconomic models might be less developed)," the report says.

The results of the report - entitled Measuring Employment Generated by the Nuclear Power Sector - suggest direct employment during a ten-year period of site preparation and construction of a single 1000 MWe advanced light water reactor of some 1200 professional and construction staff, producing 12,000 labour-years. 

Over a 50-year operating period, approximately 600 administrative, operation and maintenance, and permanently contracted staff are employed annually, or about 30,000 labour-years.

Once the reactor is shut down, a further 500 people are employed annually over a ten-year period of decommissioning, or around 5000 labour-years. In addition, over a period of about 40 years, 80 employees manage nuclear waste, totalling around 3000 labour-years.

This brings a total of about 50,000 direct labour-years per gigawatt during the reactor's construction, operation and decommissioning, the report says.

In addition, the study says a further 50,000 job-years of indirect employment is also created through the nuclear supply chain. Meanwhile, another 100,000 job-years of induced employment is generated.

Total employment over the life cycle of a 1000 MWe nuclear power reactor is therefore about 200,000 job-years, the study concludes.

"While the purpose of this report is to help member country experts determine the levels of inputs (particularly labour) flowing into the nuclear power sector, these inputs depend on the state of development of the nuclear power sector in a particular economy," the report states.

Although the study was completed in 2016, the report has only just been released following an agreement last week between the NEA and IAEA for both to publish the report.

The nuclear industry has set the Harmony goal for nuclear energy to provide 25% of global electricity by 2050. This will require trebling nuclear generation from its present level. Some 1000 GWe of new nuclear generating capacity will need to be constructed by then to achieve that goal.

Geoffrey Rothwell of the NEA, who contributed towards the study, presented its findings at the World Nuclear Association Annual Symposium in September 2017.

At that time, he said the workforce to fulfil the Harmony goal of 1000 GWe of new build by 2050 could require peak direct employment of 810,000 job-years per year.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News