Next Generation: Skills for New Build Nuclear

Cogent is in the process of writing 4 reports on the UK nuclear industry. The latest report Next Generation: Skills for New Build Nuclear is now available for download.

At its peak, nuclear power in the UK provided over a quarter of the total electricity generation in the UK. Today, the
industry is on the cusp of a renaissance in new build that will see a transition between the old and the new generation of power stations. It is therefore paramount that the UK retains the skills it already has and develops the skills it needs to meet the requirements of a sector that is likely to grow over the next few years.

Government (for policy), employers (for investment and training) and education providers require future skills models to be elaborated. This requires an understanding of what skills are required and by when within the sector. This report is aimed at informing skills planning through peer-reviewed analysis of scenarios, projections on skills, assessment of skills at risk, and recommendations.

To achieve this, the skills organisations representing the industry and its supply chain have come together with government departments to provide insight and foresight of the skills pipeline stretching from blueprint through construction to commissioning of the next generation of nuclear power stations. The research provides a fresh and detailed perspective on skills at a point very close to the onset of ‘renaissance’.

The various private sector consortia that are gearing up for new build have stated intent to deliver up to 16 GWe by 2025. New build on this scale would create thousands of new jobs and training opportunities in construction, advanced manufacture, engineering construction, regulation, nuclear operations, power generation, and plant
 maintenance. It is in this context that a ‘Next Generation’ scenario has been framed. The scenario assumes no significant alteration to the timeline projected by the Office for Nuclear Development‡ for first new nuclear generation, and that the UK is expected to supply most of the skills required.

The ‘Next Generation’ scenario adopted by this study is the workforce required to build 6 stations by deploying 12 Pressurised Water Reactor units to generate up to 16 GWe, finishing circa 2025.  The station profile used comprises a hypothetical six ‘EPR’ and six ‘AP1000’  reactors. The timeline accommodates an ‘early-starter’ profile for the EPR design followed by the AP1000, with an average five years after ‘first concrete’ to achieve a fully commissioned single unit. With the long projection to 2025, it is estimated that the figures are accurate to a precision of 20%.
(Alternative scenarios are provided in diagrammatic form in a separate web-published appendix).

Employment of the order of 110,000-140,000 person years is predicted, based on full-time equivalents totalled each
year for every year. This gives an average 10,000 jobs per year. Headcounts will be considerably higher, especially
for construction.

Stretching or compressing the new nuclear timeline affects the predicted peak employment and the degree to which
the construction and manufacturing workforces can cycle through various build projects. For the scenario, a main total employment peak of 14,000 full-time equivalents circa 2021 is predicted. This figure provides an indication of the racking up of skilled demand over the next decade and has implications for the supply of skills from education and
training, and for transition planning of existing skills in the industry. The peak is driven by the significant overlap in the separate new build projects with seven units under various stages of construction between 2019 and 2021.
The sum of the separate sector maxima, albeit at different points in time, amount to 18,000, comprising 12,000 for Construction, 5,000 for Operations and 1,000 in Manufacture.

Before new generating capacity is fully commissioned, existing generating capacity, according to current lifetime plans, continues to decline. A low of 5 GWe generation provided by nuclear in 2017 is predicted before a gradual increase to a combined peak of approximately 17 GWe is established by the end of the scenario timeframe circa 2025.

This illustrates the potential for workforce transition planning across the old and the new power stations. However,  the age profile of the established workforces will reduce this facility over the period. Further, the operation of existing estate will require on-going support, including a degree of new construction itself, as successful and safe operation in this area is a prerequisite for future development.

You can read the complete Next Generation: Skills for New Build Nuclear here.

The first report in the series Power People – The Civil Nuclear Workfoce can be found here.