The future of U.K. nuclear power

equate to three times the size of the Terminal 5 project and could represent around £20 billion worth of business for U.K. companies.

I don’t want to see just a like-for-like replacement of nuclear capacity. Obviously it’s up to the market to decide what investment takes place. But energy security and climate change should provide the push for a significant expansion of nuclear in the U.K. in the coming decades. And it could create up to 100,000 new jobs. This includes thousands of highly-skilled, well-paid posts, many in some of our most deprived areas.

The industry is facing the pressure of replacing an ageing workforce. Around 1,500 employees need to be replaced every year and this will increase as more people retire.

The design, build, operation and decommissioning of new nuclear stations call for a spectrum of professional skills — including engineers, scientists, mathematicians, radiation specialists, health physicists, project managers, office workers and administrators.

It’s time to update the strategic review of the industry’s skills base that was run at the beginning of the decade.

So the Sector Skills Councils, including Cogent, will run a skills audit of the energy sector to identify shortages, gaps and the impact of these and other demographic factors on our energy industry. The newly-established National Skills Academy for Nuclear (NSAN) is also working to co-ordinate and develop training at a regional and national level, alongside academies focused on boosting skills in manufacturing, the process industries and offshore oil.

With training partners, NSAN aims to deliver 1,200 apprenticeships, 150 foundation degrees and to retrain 4,000 existing workers in its first three years of operation. The academy is also building closer links with the higher education sector. And universities are responding strongly to our agenda to improve the supply of graduates into the sector.

Our energy challenge is clear: to secure a diverse mix of low-carbon energy supplies — including maximizing indigenous production — and to work effectively with other countries to tackle the global problem of climate change.

Our commitment to enabling nuclear to play a full role in meeting this challenge is strong and unshakeable. Momentum is building. Companies from across the world see new-build in the U.K. as a gateway to the rest of the European market.

So it’s critical that we capitalize on this interest not only so we can realize our ambition for new nuclear capacity from 2017, but also to help hundreds of U.K. companies and thousands of workers benefit from the re-birth of our nuclear industries.