Thursday, 6 December 2012

Government promises more jobs for nuclear industry, Heysham 1's "life" to be extended

The Government has just published its Nuclear Supply Chain and Skills Action Plan which has been developed by Government in partnership with developers, professional bodies, trade associations and industry.

The Plan's unveiling came as the Government also announced 500 new jobs are to be created at Sellafield (possibly to clear up the widely-reported and growing nuclear mess that threatens the health of many locals there) and promises that the revival of the UK's nuclear industry will result in thousands of new jobs.

The document outlines that, subject to the necessary regulatory reviews and approvals in due course, EDF Energy is now targeting an average of seven years life extension across all of the AGR stations – including Heysham 1.

Heysham is one of three sites that has also been assessed as potentially suitable for new nuclear power stations in the UK, but at this time no project plans have been announced.

Under the plan the government will establish a new Nuclear Industry Council, instigate new working groups for each sub-sector of the industry to identify challenges to the UK's new build programme, undertake new initiatives to tackle skills shortages, and develop a coordinated nuclear export strategy.

Despite the huge costs of nuclear power - emphasized once again by massive cost overrun problems for the Flamanville 3 in Normandy, developed by EDF and Italian utility Enel, which has pulled out of the project - the government argues there are significant opportunities in the UK nuclear sector from which the UK supply chain can benefit, provided it builds up its capabilities and competitiveness.

"The Government wants to ensure that the new nuclear build programme delivers not only much needed low carbon electricity at competitive prices but also economic benefits to the UK including ensuring the nuclear supply chain is well positioned to access UK and long term export opportunities."

The Action Plan sets out the following key objectives:

• To maximise UK economic activity and growth from the nuclear sector at national and local level, including employment and business opportunities for the UK supply chain.

• To boost job creation in the nuclear industry, and to ensure that potential skills shortages do not act as a barrier to the future development of the industry in the UK.

• To use the domestic nuclear market to provide a platform for enhancing a sustainable and successful UK civil nuclear industry, and to use this basis as a lever to access export opportunities.

• To maintain and develop a vibrant supply chain covering key capabilities to deliver safe, innovative and cost effective clean up of the legacy facilities and to exploit synergies with new build.

• To raise awareness across the supply chain of nuclear sector opportunities, to identify barriers preventing access to those opportunities and to develop actions for Government and Industry that will help place the supply chain in a stronger position to compete for those opportunities.

In total 30 actions have been proposed in the action plan to tackle the issues identified, and the Government says these actions will be implemented by them and the nuclear industry in the coming years "for the benefit of the UK supply chain".

Announcing the Plan today, Energy Minister John Hayes also launched a campaign to fill around 500 skilled jobs at the Sellafield nuclear site in West Cumbria with a mixture of apprentices, graduates, trainees and ex-military personnel.

"Just as atoms collide in a nuclear reactor, the economic benefits of our nuclear renaissance will reverberate far and wide across the country," he said in a statement. "The announcement of 500 jobs at Sellafield today shows the immense contribution of the nuclear sector to the UK economy, in particular that of West Cumbria."

Business Green notes that the launch of the plan was overshadowed by news that proposals for a new fleet of French nuclear reactors were dealt a major blow yesterday, after Italian utility Enel announced that the latest round of cost overruns meant it was exiting its partnership with energy giant EDF to deliver the flagship Flamanville 3 European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) in Normandy.

EDF, which runs Heysham, confirmed earlier in the week that cost estimates for the troubled project had risen by a further €2m to €8.5bn - but is insisting the cost estimates for the construction of Hinkley Point currently being considered by the UK government already include the lessons learned from the Flamanville project.

• The Nuclear Supply Chain and Skills Action Plan can be found in full on the DECC website at: http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/meeting_energy/nuclear/new/supply_skills/supply_skills.aspx

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