Nuclear Jobs to Help Drive Economic Recovery

The WNA report [published in July 2020] shows that most employment estimates in the energy sector are ‘point-in-time’, i.e. they provide a snapshot rather than a view over the entire plant lifetime.The WNA position paper uses existing studies to estimate employment in a ‘steady state’ for both nuclear and wind energy.

The French nuclear sector and US wind sector were chosen partly because of the availability of employment data for these countries, and partly because it is assumed that their supply chains are largely domestically located.

WNA studied the overall employment contours for a one-gigawatt nuclear facility over an 80-year period. The employment profile at the nuclear plant is much smoother, requiring on average fewer jobs during construction but also employing more during operation. Jobs in operations especially tend to be long term and will support workers who live in the communities near the plant.

The report looked at how many people are employed – both directly in construction and operation, but also indirectly through the wider supply chain – to generate 1,000 terawatt hours per year within the two national industries. A striking fact was revealed: the nuclear industry provides about 25% more employment per unit of electricity in France than wind power does in the USA. We think this general conclusion holds true for most countries.

Not only does nuclear employ more people than wind, it creates more value in the wider economy. How can this this true?

Firstly, the average nuclear sector pay-rate tends to exceed those of other energy technologies by a significant margin. The report looks at pay trends for a range of US energy workers that show them earning an additional USD20,000 per year compared to competing energy technologies. Paying workers more means their family units tend to have more disposable income to spend on goods and services throughout the community and more widely.

Secondly, a fully-fledged established nuclear industry will generate value that is easily detectable at the macro-economic level. The report shows how the European nuclear industry contributes to economic activity in the region worth half a trillion euros each year. In addition to the jobs and high household incomes generated, public revenues generated through taxation reach a value of EUR124 billion, while the sector also generated a trade surplus of almost EUR20 billion.

These figures are for a largely mature industry where little new build is currently under way, but we can readily imagine just how much additional value would be created around the world if countries committed to accelerating the implementation of the 108 reactors which are already planned by governments, and ensuring the long-time operation of the 290 reactors that have been operational for 30+ years. As we hopefully head into the COVID recovery phase, this is a clear and urgent priority.

In summary, WNA research shows that:

  • Nuclear power provides more employment per unit of electricity than wind power. For example, about 461,000 full-time workers are needed to service and operate a nuclear fleet generating 1,000 terawatt hours annually compared with 346,000 for a wind fleet generating the same amount of electricity;
  • These jobs will be better paid and of a better quality than any other in the energy sector. The nuclear industry acts as a jobs multiplier – every direct job in the nuclear industry sustains four other jobs;
  • Even despite this employment benefit, nuclear maintains an economic advantage over intermittent renewables for final energy supply in high renewables future as it does not require the same spending on system costs; and
  • Nuclear energy, as major infrastructure development, attracts invaluable investment that drives sustained long-term local and national economic growth.

Source: World Nuclear News, July 2020