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Nuclear Shortage (first posted October 2012)

We generated a lot of noise when we shared our first Future Energy edition a few months ago. Most of the feedback simply reinforced the importance of tackling this major skills shortage. If ever there was an example of long term infrastructure needing long term talent investment then this is it.

• The UK government plans to build up to eight new reactors and is committed to creating 100,000 jobs in the nuclear sector
• By 2025, almost half the overall nuclear workforce in Cumbria will have retired
• The UK nuclear sector workforce will need to grow by about half before 2025
• To service the predicted growth in jobs in the nuclear industry, 25% of graduates leaving
universities in the UK will need relevant degrees
• Worldwide, 436 power reactors currently contribute 15% of the world’s energy
• Globally, over 40 new reactors are under construction, 106 are in planning and 266 are being
proposed
• In most countries there are now fewer comprehensive, high-quality nuclear technology
programmes at universities than before
• The ability of universities to attract top-quality students to these programmes, meet future
staffing requirements of the nuclear industry, and conduct leading-edge research in nuclear topics is becoming seriously compromised

The sheer scale of the challenge is immense. The demand for energy has never been greater. Natural resources are running out. Renewable energy sources simply can’t generate the power the world needs. And those who control the power – have the power to control. There are serious
national security issues for those who rely on power from other countries. Business, industry, hospitals and more can all be left in the dark at the switch of a button. Nuclear power is controversial. But it’s come a long way since the 1950s – even though many perceptions haven’t changed. Chernobyl and Fukushima were terrible disasters. But both plants were built in the 1970s. Since then technology and safety have improved massively. And nuclear energy has won over some environmentalists (including the Co-Founder of Greenpeace) who are split over the issue. The debate still rages. But the fact is there are 7 billion people on the planet already. World energy consumption is set to rise by 50% by 2020. And although nuclear energy isn’t the only answer – it is here to stay as part of the energy mix. And the world will need to prepare a workforce for the challenge.

These facts and figures were gathered from a variety of sources, including ‘Renaissance Nuclear Skills’ a blog by Emma-Jane Gooch, a Summary of Nuclear Education & Training, the Independent and World Nuclear News. However, the simple fact is that the industry is in a state of flux and these figures are changing all the time. Plans are shelved, new plans are made and then there’s talk of extending the life of old reactors.

But whatever your thoughts about nuclear energy, the UK Government is committed to it. And it could be the only way to meet the country’s environmental targets and reduce the impact of global warming. So there will be investment (possibly on a $10 billion scale by the Chinese). New nuclear power stations will be built. And unless something is done now – there WILL be a serious lack of people with the skills to build, run and dismantle the UK’s nuclear power stations.

2012 releases of The Future Index are available at http://www.thefutureindex.com or drop one of us a line jim.tudor@thefutureink.com, nick.brian@thefutureink.com.
We’ll soon be tweeting @thefutureindex

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