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NIA warns skills must not be lost as reactors are shut down Hinkley Point C, where two new EPR units are under construction, employs around 6,300 people on site. Courtesy EDF. Nuclear industry employment has grown solidly in 2021, with a robust presence in the UK regions, although urgent investment is needed to sustain that trend and ensure that nationally critical skills are not lost as the existing nuclear fleet retires, the London-based Nuclear Industry Association said.

According to the association’s annual jobs map, the civil nuclear sector employs 61,371 people across the UK, an increase of over 1,700 compared to 2020.

New build projects continue to play a vital role in sustaining employment and enhancing the UK’s skills base. Hinkley Point C, where two new EPR units are under construction, employs around 6,300 people on site with more than 780 apprentices having been trained on the project to date. EDF announced earlier this year that employment on site will rise to more than 8,000 in the coming years to finish the project. Sizewell C would also deliver thousands of new jobs as a replica of Hinkley, but legislation for a new financing model is needed to capture those benefits, the NIA said.

Innovations in advanced nuclear technology have also driven the sector’s strong employment presence, with a growing workforce led by Rolls Royce developing a small modular reactor – the UKSMR – in the north-Midlands town of Derby and across the country. UKSMR deployment could create 6,000 additional jobs, and the UK is also pursuing advanced gas-cooled designs that would be led by British engineering.

Elsewhere, the UK’s world-class nuclear fusion research expertise sees more than 2,000 people employed at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire.

The nuclear industry remains a vital engine of regional economic development, with more than 24,000 people employed in the North West in decommissioning, fuel cycle research, reactor design and other disciplines. In the South West, the sector employs over 12,900 people, with £3.2bn already spent across the region from the Hinkley Point C project, more than twice the initial target of £1.5bn set at the project’s outset.

Most of the UK’s fleet of 15 commercial reactors– which supply about 15% of the country’s electricity generation – is scheduled to retire in the next two and a half years. Only one plant, the pressurised water reactor at Sizewell B, will remain in commercial operation by 2030, although the first of two new units at Hinkley Point C should be online in 2026.

Date: Wednesday, 15 September 2021
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