UK nuclear jobs ‘set to double’ with new atom plant plans, but Audit Office damns Hinkley Point costs

The nuclear power industry’s new build programme has the potential to almost double the number of UK jobs across the civil nuclear sector.

New figures published by the Nuclear Industry Association 2017 employment survey shows that the Hinkley Point C, Wylfa Newydd and Moorside new build projects could create more than 50,000 job opportunities during construction, with at least 3,000 permanent roles spread across the three sites once operational.

Currently there are 1,500 workers on site at Hinkley Point C and overall the project is due to create 25,000 job opportunities.

Additionally, NuGeneration’s Moorside programme in Cumbria will create 20,000  jobs during construction and Horizon Nuclear Power estimate 6,000 people will be on site at Wylfa Newydd during the peak construction phase of the project.

The Government’s commitment to a wide-ranging industrial strategy was reiterated in the Queen’s Speech, and the NIA believes the nuclear sector has an important role to play in delivering a strategy which will “spread prosperity and opportunity across the country”.

As the 2017 Nuclear Jobs Map demonstrates, the industry is spread across the country and the sector will help drive a number of the Government’s 10 pillars of industrial strategy, with jobs in engineering, manufacturing, construction and decommissioning and world-leading expertise being exported across the world.

Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, commented: “We know new nuclear will help ensure the lowest-cost route to decarbonisation, generating the reliable, round the clock, low carbon electricity the UK needs.

 “We also know it will create thousands of high-skilled, well paid jobs in areas of the country where jobs are often hard to come by. The focus now must be on delivering the huge potential stored up in the planned new build programme and ensuring Hinkley is just the first of a succession of nuclear driven economic boosts for the country.

“With two thirds of the UK’s currently despatchable generation capacity due to retire by 2030, including all but one of the current nuclear fleet, reliable, secure and always available nuclear power must be replaced in a way which minimises exposure to the volatility of fossil fuel prices, and is consistent with our domestic and international commitments on emissions.”

Meanwhile, the National Audit Office has analysed in detail the financing agreement that was made between the UK Government and EDF for the £18 billion Hinkley Point C project, which is essential for EDF to go ahead with the deal.

The decades-long deal gives EDF a guaranteed rate of return and locks the country into paying electricity prices which are currently double the existing rate for many years to come. 

However, the NAO could not be more damning in its criticism of the Hinkley Point deal. It states: 

“The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s deal for Hinkley Point C has locked consumers into a risky and expensive project with uncertain strategic and economic benefits.

“(When) the Department finalised the deal in 2016 its value-for-money tests showed the economic case for Hinkley Point C was marginal and subject to significant uncertainty.

“Less favourable, but reasonable, assumptions about future fossil fuel prices, renewables costs and follow on nuclear projects would have meant the deal was not value for money according to the  Department’s tests.”

British Energy Minister Greg Clark, MP, said that the Hinkley Point C Contract for Difference ‘represents value for money’ at a strike price of £92.50/MWh.

Councillor David Blackburn, Vice-chairman of the Nuclear Free Local Authorities’ steering committee commented: “With Toshiba’s Westinghouse project at Moorside effectively mothballed, Hitachi struggling to reduce costs for Wylfa B, and the content of this NAO report on Hinkley Point, UK new nuclear is in a sorry state.

“The Government and opposition parties urgently need to come together and completely review UK energy policy because at present it is not fit for purpose. It is time to embrace the renewable energy revolution instead.” 

Justin Bowden, GMB National Secretary for Energy, said: “Hinkley Point C is crucial for the UK’s future energy needs and the NAO raises valid concerns about whether the deal represents value for money for the British public.

“Chinese built pop-up power stations are not the answer and  it is beyond stupid for the UK to rely on foreign Governments and companies to build our vital energy infrastructure and keep Britain’s lights on.

“Apart from anything else, funding Hinkley Point C directly from taxation would be a significantly cheaper option for consumers.

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