With over 100 nuclear plants being planned globally the government has to fill the energy skills gap fast if it wants to build a new generation of power stations in the UK
In many ways Thursday's announcement given the go-ahead for new nuclear power stations was the easy part for the industry and for the government. The main points had been well trailed in advance so there were no real surprises in the statement itself.
The devil will be in the detail of the Energy Bill. I am keen to see exactly how the government expects the power operators to ensure that sufficient funds are set aside to cover decommissioning costs, as well as a share of the long-term storage, when it is not clear what these costs will be. Until the government outlines the decommission and long-term storage strategy for spent nuclear materials in the UK it will be difficult for anyone to estimate these costs in a meaningful way.
Vital part of the mixThe nuclear strategy is a vital part of the mix and has to work alongside other energy generating sources, such as wind, solar and carbon capture technology, if we are to have a secure power generating supply that will meet our future needs.
There are already 30 new nuclear power stations under construction globally, with a further 100-plus either proposed or planned worldwide
There are some clear challenges that we need to address now, if we are to avoid falling further behind other countries' nuclear build programmes. These are the same pressures facing the rest of the world, namely, we are all competing for a share of the limited manufacturing capacity for main components and we are all trying to manage a severe energy skills gap.
There are already 30 new nuclear power stations under construction globally, with a further 100-plus either proposed or planned worldwide, so the pressure on manufacturing capacity and skilled people is going to be an issue for the UK as we try get our own new build programme underway. We need to put a plan in place to develop sufficient skills here to avoid the trap of having to compete for expertise from other countries to fulfil our nuclear aims.
It's not all doom and gloom, there are also tremendous opportunities for UK firms that have skills in cost estimating, cost benefit analysis cost forecasting for the UK nuclear sector. These companies will find themselves sought after by the worldwide nuclear industry. Here in the UK there will a great demand for those experienced in life cycle costing, especially as decommissioning costs will now be a core element for any new build project.
Jim O'Neill is the head of nuclear and director of cost management at the international construction consultancy Currie & Brown