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The UK government has earmarked eight sites as being suitable for building new nuclear reactors:
Three developers have brought forward plans to develop over 16GW of new nuclear power at 6 of the 8 identified locations which are all adjacent to sites with existing or decommissioned nuclear plants.
At peak between 4,000 and 5,600 workers will be required on each nuclear new build site, equating to up to 25,000 individual job opportunities per project. You can learn more about the timelines and scale of employment opportunities on the Hinkley Point C project in our blog post "When Will Employers be Hiring Staff on the Hinkley Point C Nuclear Project".
While the construction dates are yet to be confirmed the main period of employment on Nuclear New Build projects is expected to occur between 2020 and 2025, with peak employment forecast to exceed 11,000 when multiple projects are likely to be on site at the same time, although at different phases of build.
To understand the vetting and certifications required to work on a nuclear construction project you can read our blog post "The Hinkley Point C Application, Vetting and Onboarding Process".
The Final Investment Decisions for Hinkley Point C was made in July 2016, while current projections indicate that the 5 other projects will make Final Investment Decisions between 2018 and 2025. It is therefore likely that multiple projects will be on site at the same time. Some of the projects including Hinkley C and Sizewell have the same investors and will be coordinated to manage resources.
A typical construction period for a nuclear plant is 7 years, however, the average construction time since 2004 is 10 years. The construction phases on each project will typically include earthworks / enabling works lasting in the order of 12 to 24 months, 48 to 72 months for civils and MEICA installation, and 12 months for commissioning and testing of each reactor.
The 8 Nuclear New Build projects are located in 5 of the 12 UK regions, the South West, Wales, the East of England, the North West and potentially the North East. Two projects each are due to be built in the East of England, the South West and potentially the North West, while Wales and the North East have the potential for one project apiece.
The infrastructure investment levels in the South West average £500m to £600m per year with approximately 200,000 construction workers employed in the region. The South West is projected to see two new nuclear power stations, at Hinkley Point and Oldbury. Hinkley Point has commenced works on site with the first of the two reactors expected to be operational by 2025. Should there be a period of overlap between the projects, skills shortages in some disciplines can be expected, for example for scaffolders.
The Wylfa project is likely to be the second project to start on site. For some occupations peak civils construction demand could be as much as 50% of available resource, with scaffolders identified as a particular pinch point within Wales.
The biggest increase in nuclear job opportunities could occur in the North West, depending on investment proposals for the Heysham site. The North West’s confirmed project at Moorside near Sellafield is currently scheduled to be in the middle of the Nuclear New Build programme, and potentially competing with all other sites for available labour.
Two new nuclear power stations are expected to be built in the East of England, at Sizewell and Bradwell. The construction resource demand will depend on the timelines for the Bradwell project. The current proposal is for Chinese designed reactors which would have to go through a Generic Design Assessment approval process which can take in the order of 4 years to complete.
The construction market in the North East is one of the smallest in the UK and infrastructure output averages around £200m a year. The resource demand for the proposed new nuclear plant at Hartlepool could therefore have a significant impact on the sector, however, no confirmed investment plans for the site are currently tabled.
The impact and potential for skills shortages at a national level will depend on the commencement dates and overlap of the large rail and nuclear projects combined with the levels of housebuilding and commercial activity.
While the Nuclear New Build demand would account for less than 1% of the overall UK construction workforce, specific roles in some regions will have the potential for skills shortages. Form-workers, steel fixers, concretors and plant operatives have been identified as areas of particular concern while Project Managers and Project Planners with the required level of experience may also create resourcing pinch-points.
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