Another of the nuclear industry’s wild boasts is about its ability to create huge numbers of jobs. It’s often a promise it can’t keep. Just ask Bulgaria whose Prime Minister Stanishev said of the Belene nuclear reactor, "I am proud of Bulgarian power engineers, who are capable of developing such a complicated design". The reactor is of Russian design and with Bulgaria lacking ‘sufficiently educated and skilled specialised construction personnel’ plans were made ‘to bring over hundreds of Russian, Chinese and Vietnamese workers’.
These boasts are also being revised downwards in the UK. Under plans to build ‘up to’ ten new nuclear reactors, the then business minister John Hutton said in September last year that ‘up to’ 100,000 jobs would be created – ten thousand jobs per reactor. Keep an eye on those ‘up to’s – they don’t constitute a promise or a guarantee but merely an aspiration. They work hard at obfuscating, like a magician’s assistant distracting you from what the magician is really doing.
In April, the UK environment minister Ed Miliband said each new reactor now would employ 9,000 people – a drop of 1,000 jobs per reactor on the 2008 ‘up to’. We wonder how much further that jobs-to-reactor figure will fall if the UK government and nuclear industry win the propaganda battle and no longer have to rely on big, unprovable promises to win their case – especially if the builders, finding themselves over budget or behind schedule (as we can fully expect), have to cut costs.
We also wonder how many of those jobs will be only short-term construction jobs just for the duration of build process and how many of those will be imported technicians and labourers rather than local workers as is the case with the EPR reactor construction at Olkiluoto in Finland.
And if – if – the nuclear industry were to create these thousands of jobs, who is going to train them, considering the majority UK’s nuclear experts and builders are now retired or no longer with us?
Take for example, Energus (formerly known as The Nuclear Academy), which has just opened as part of the National Skills Academy for Nuclear in the north-west of England. David Barber, head of training for British Energy, which is part of EDF Energy, who want to build four reactors in the UK (and so create ‘up to’ 36,000 jobs) said:
With the increase in demand for quality skills across all sectors of the nuclear industry it is absolutely essential we have the confidence in our capability to meet this, both for our own workforce and that of our supply chain. We see the National Skills Academy for Nuclear as the key enabler to broker the provision of both provider capacity and quality skills.
Energus is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, The Learning and Skills Council via National Skills Academy for Nuclear, North West Development Agency, Northern Way, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Sellafield Sites and West Lakes Renaissance. That is, not by EDF, who won’t have to pay the bill for training those experts it doesn’t import from France. No wonder they’re so keen on the idea.