A problem with the nuclear renaissance

I have been thinking about this issue for several years. The current nuclear workforce is getting older and retiring. In many cases, it is difficult to find replacements for those leaving the nuclear power industry. This could be a limiting factor on an expansion of the nuclear power fleet, if there aren’t enough engineers, operators, skilled construction and maintenance workers and other types of specialists.

The following article is about the nuclear power workforce in Europe, but I think it equally applies to the US and perhaps elsewhere.

From the link:
“We’ll need trained resources to get projects off the ground. We don’t have much time to react,” Philippe Lanoir, president for industry and energy at the Syntec-Ingenierie business federation in France, told Bloomberg.

France’s nuclear power giant EDF expects to recruit around 4,500 employees in permanent roles in the nuclear power industry in France in 2024 alone. But the French Nuclear Industry Association, GIFEN, says that France would need about 10,000 hires per year by 2033 to fill the talent gap.

In the UK, a National Nuclear Strategic Plan for Skills was launched in May, underpinning the goal of doubling the number of new apprenticeships by 2026 and recruiting 40,000 new jobs by 2030 – double the current hiring rate for the sector.

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The university where I got my nuclear engineering degree doesn’t offer that major any longer. The small campus nuclear reactor was decommissioned and disassembled several years ago. It was just a small research reactor, but it was a real reactor that students could actually bring critical and perform simple experiments (under the supervision of a professor). Now it is totally gone and there isn’t a nuclear engineering major at the university.

These are problems that could be fixed. It isn’t necessarily a permanent situation. If the good paying jobs are there, then more students may want to get engineering degrees. But if there isn’t a large enough workforce, will companies want to build more plants? Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

  • Pete

You would think the US Navy will be a steady source of trained people.

Given the opposition to nuclear power it is not surprising that few choose nuclear as a career. So maintaining core competency in all the related areas is difficult. Govt could address the issue by subsidies. Or by maintaining a minimal construction program to retain the expertise.