01 April 2014

Managing the skills transition to nuclear new build

Jean Llewellyn OBE

The organisation responsible for developing skills in the UK’s nuclear energy sector will outline its plans next week to chemical and process engineers as the country prepares to build 12 new nuclear reactors by 2030.

The UK nuclear industry currently has 16 operational nuclear reactors with a capacity equivalent to ten gigawatts (GWe)1. Nuclear energy, including imports, provides nearly 20 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs2

With most of the UK’s existing reactors scheduled to be shutdown over the next decade, the UK government set out plans last year to deliver around 16 GWe of new nuclear energy by 2030. 

It’s a major new challenge for a sector whose skills focus – over the past two decades – has been on operation, life extension of reactors, decommissioning and clean-up of existing facilities.

Jean Llewellyn, chief executive of the National Skills Academy for Nuclear and Nuclear Manufacturing (the Skills Academy) – the organisation responsible for leading the strategic development of skills in the nuclear sector – will outline the Skills Academy’s plans at the Institution of Chemical Engineers’ (IChemE) Sustainable Nuclear Energy Conference in Manchester, UK, which starts on 9 April 2014.

Llewellyn said: “This major growth in the nuclear sector is a massive undertaking from a skills capacity and capability point of view. Some estimates suggest the new build programme will generate around 30,000 jobs at its peak.

“Ensuring the UK has the skills it needs to maximise the economic benefits of new build, whilst ensuring the decommissioning efforts progress as planned will take collaboration across industry, skills bodies and government.”

The Skills Academy has already established the Triple Bar suite with industry to provide a fundamental level introduction to the requirements for compliance, nuclear awareness and industry behaviours for new suppliers, contractors and workers entering the nuclear industry.

At next week’s conference, Llewellyn will also outline the Skills Academy’s comprehensive plans to support the sector in what is set to be an exciting new era for UK nuclear energy.  One such resource is the Skills Academy’s Capability Model, which has been developed to provide support and guidance to nuclear organisations, and the supply chain, on good practice in training, accreditation and nuclear professionalism. 

She said: “We have developed and launched the Nuclear Training Network (NTN) online resource, which not only hosts courses developed by the Skills Academy, but also enables employers and providers to upload training and learning materials for access by learners across the UK and Internationally.

“Close partnerships, Apprenticeships, establishing common professional standards, new qualifications such as the Certificate of Nuclear Professionalism (CoNP), the development of ‘Subject Matter Experts’ and other initiatives are all part of a comprehensive plan to build a sustainable, skilled and safe nuclear workforce and supplier chain.”

IChemE’s Sustainable Nuclear Energy Conference runs from 9-11 April 2014 in Manchester, UK. Keynote speakers include: Professor Dame Sue Ion, Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering; Liz Keenaghan-Clark, head of nuclear decommission waste and safety, Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC); Dr Bryan Borradaile, engineering specialist, nuclear materials and chemistry, Rolls-Royce; Professor Francis Livens, professor of radiochemistry and research director, Dalton Nuclear Institute, The University of Manchester; Professor Graham Fairhall, chief science and technology officer, National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL); and Professor Neil Smart, research alliance manager, Sellafield Ltd.

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IChemE is a registered charity in England & Wales (214379), and a charity registered in Scotland (SC 039661).