Unite welcomed a new ‘nuclear sector deal’ announced by the government on Thursday (June 28) that will see £200m invested in the industry.
Business and energy secretary Greg Clark yesterday unveiled the plans, which aim to secure a sustainable energy mix for the UK and drive down industry costs – and in the process lower customers’ energy bills as well.
The government has committed £44m towards R&D to support the development of mini nuclear plants, known as advanced modular reactors, which have the potential to bring down the high costs associated with new nuclear build.
The UK government will partner with the Welsh government to build a new £40m thermal dynamics facility in North Wales to support the development of new advanced nuclear technologies. The government will also commit £86m toward a new national fusion technology platform at the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s Science Centre in Culham, Oxfordshire.
The government has said it aims to reduce the cost of new nuclear build projects by 30 per cent by 2030, and decrease the cost of decommissioning old nuclear sites by 20 per cent over the same time period.
Sector gender diversity
Unite especially welcomed a commitment to increase gender diversity in the nuclear sector. At present, women make up only 22 per cent of people working in nuclear, with only 15 per cent of nuclear engineers being female. The government is now aiming to increase gender diversity so that by 2030, 40 per cent of the nuclear workforce will be female.
The government estimates that the nuclear sector deal will create about 100,000 jobs by 2021.
Announcing the deal, Clark said, “The UK is the home of civil nuclear technology and with this investment in innovation and our commitment to increasing diversity in an already highly-skilled workforce, I want to ensure we remain the world leader.
“Nuclear energy not only fuels our power supply, it fuels local jobs, wages, economic prosperity and drives UK innovation,” he added. “This Sector Deal marks an important moment for the government and industry to work collectively to deliver the modern Industrial Strategy, drive clean growth and ensure civil nuclear remains an important part of the UK’s energy future.”
Unite acting national officer for energy Peter McIntosh said that the union welcomed “the broad thrust of the government’s nuclear sector deal in these economically challenging times as a positive move.
“However, we will be holding ministers to account to ensure they deliver on their commitments,” he added. “We fully support the commitment to close the gender gap and increase to 40 per cent the number of women employed in this sector by 2030.
“We anticipate that this deal will create thousands of highly skilled jobs in the years to come.”
News of the nuclear sector deal comes in the same week that the government announced it would scrap the Swansea Tidal Bay Lagoon tidal project. On Monday (June 25) the government said it would pull the plug on the tidal power scheme, a move that Unite branded a “short-sighted jobs killer.”
“Not backing the tidal bay lagoon denies Wales the opportunity of being at the forefront of green energy innovation, while at the same jeopardises hundreds of jobs in turbine production at GE at its sites in the Midlands,” said Unite Wales deputy secretary Gareth Jones.