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Energising the nuclear workforce of the future

28 November 2017

Today, Balfour Beatty launches the latest of its Public Policy papers, “Building Nuclear Skills: A workforce for the future” focusing on the challenges in building the civil nuclear skills base and presenting solutions for both Government and Contractor alike.

The UK Government has committed to the biggest new nuclear programme outside of China over the coming decade. Projections state that, by 2035, 38% of the country’s energy will come from nuclear power. With around 500 nuclear reactors in planning around the world, this could place Britain at the forefront of a nuclear revolution, thereby positioning the country as a world-leader in the field.

The Government’s new nuclear programme will help meet the projected rise in electricity usage in the UK, set to increase by around a quarter over the next decade as we electrify the country’s networks and transportation links. This integral approach to nuclear energy generation is key to keeping the country connected.

Yet, with a startling skills shortage in the industry, the reality of delivering such a transformational energy programme isn’t currently secure.

Across the UK, a myriad of Nuclear projects are in development: Hinkley Point C in Somerset, Wylfa Newydd in North Wales, and Moorside in Cumbria are set to create a combined 50,000 jobs in the construction phases alone, with a further 3,000 permanent roles once the plants are operational. This is in addition to the 65,000 people currently employed across the UK’s civil nuclear sector.

As the industry stands, the skills shortage makes filling these job vacancies extremely challenging.

In order to successfully bridge this gap, a decades-worth of training is required to bring employees up to the specialist level of skill required; and while a significant investment in nuclear skills took place back in the 1990s, nothing since has been implemented to develop the talent required to fill the cyclical nature of nuclear investment.
As such, the ageing workforce will reduce by 20% over the next decade as natural retirement age is reached, leaving behind a workforce gap which can only be addressed through on-going investment in training the next generation of engineers.

While the Government acknowledges the issue, through the publication of its Nuclear Skills Strategic Plan and setting up a National College for Nuclear, industry has an important part to play.

In its paper “Building Nuclear Skills: A workforce for the future”, Balfour Beatty sets out five key challenges and solutions to building the civil nuclear skills base, available to read here.

Stephen Tarr, Managing Director Balfour Beatty's Major Projects business, said: "The UK is embarking on a nuclear renaissance that will place significant delivery demands on the country's supply chains. Whilst Government has to provide the policy framework and the confidence the industry needs to invest, the industry in all its guises has a key role to play in training and attracting new talent into the sector. Only by doing this, can we ensure that we have the appropriately skilled staff in place to build new nuclear facilities that will help position the UK as the world-leading expert in the provision of nuclear energy.”


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Antonia Walton
Balfour Beatty
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Notes to editors:

  • Balfour Beatty ( is a leading international infrastructure group. With 30,000 employees, we provide innovative and efficient infrastructure that underpins our daily lives, supports communities and enables economic growth. We finance, develop, build and maintain complex infrastructure such as transportation, power and utility systems, social and commercial buildings.
    Our main geographies are the UK, US and Far East. Over the last 100 years we have created iconic buildings and infrastructure all over the world including the London Olympics’ Aquatic Centre, Hong Kong’s first Zero Carbon building, the National Museum of the Marine Corps in the US and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.
  • Balfour Beatty began its association with nuclear power at Calder Hall, Cumberland, when in 1953 the company delivered all lighting for the UK’s first nuclear power station. In subsequent decades, the business has delivered over 70 nuclear projects for over 40 clients which have allowed us to develop our nuclear expertise, particularly in the areas of electrical and civil engineering. As the UK takes its next steps forward towards a low-carbon economy, Balfour Beatty has forged new partnerships with businesses that will help it maintain its position at the centre of British electricity generation.
  • Viewed as a trusted delivery partner, Balfour Beatty’s key strengths lie in major civil engineering, electrical engineering, quality, safety and project controls. At Sellafield, Balfour Beatty is delivering two major projects. The first, with its joint venture partner Cavendish Nuclear, involves the construction of the £170m Silos Maintenance Facility, a mechanical handling facility to support waste retrieval operations. The second, in joint venture with Jacobs and Amec Foster Wheeler, is for the construction of a £300m Box Encapsulation Plant, which is a significant asset within the site’s decommissioning strategy and will treat, immobilise and prepare nuclear waste for long-term storage. The company is one of two contractors delivering the £288m framework for construction, infrastructure and maintenance projects across all ten Magnox nuclear sites. Within this framework the company is delivering a £34m Solid Intermediate Level Waste Encapsulation (SILWE) Facility at Hunterston.
  • Recently, in alliance with Sellafield Limited and Doosan Babcock, Balfour Beatty completed construction of Sellafield’s £240m Sludge Packaging Plant, which has now gone into active operation. Past iconic projects include civils works for Berkeley, Dungeness B and Hunterston A and, later in the 1980s, Sizewell. We have delivered over 30 projects at Sellafield since 1979.  This includes ThORP, a hugely complex civil engineering project which was once the largest of its kind in Europe.
  • Balfour Beatty Bailey, a joint venture between Balfour Beatty Kilpatrick and NG Bailey has been appointed as the preferred bidder for the £460m Hinkley Point C electrical package and is currently bidding for additional electrical scope.