Jobs for two centuries in nuclear

15 September 2017

Some 200,000 job-years of employment are created by each 1000 MWe of nuclear capacity constructed, according to a new study by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The figures come from a joint report entitled Measuring Employment Generated by the Nuclear Power Sector. The authors used a combination of top-down and bottom-up approaches in an attempt to create a methodology that can be applied to all electricity sources. The report's conclusions were announced today by the NEA's Geoffrey Rothwell at the World Nuclear Association Symposium.

During site preparation and construction of a typical 1000 MWe reactor there are about 12,000 job-years during construction, said Rothwell. Then, for 50 years of operation, annually there are about 600 administrative, operation and maintenance, and permanently contracted staff, or about 30,000 direct job-years during operation.

After operation comes decommissioning, for which there are about 500 employees annually over a period of ten years, so about 5000 direct job-years. Finally, for 40 years there are about 80 employees managing radiaoctive waste accounting for about 3000 direct job-years. That puts direct employment from a 1000 MWe nuclear reactor at about 50,000 direct job-years per GWe.

In addition, the study put indirect employment in the nuclear supply chain at another 50,000 job-years. Rothwell said that induced employment to service the from all of the above adds up to another 100,000 job-years. Therefore, the total employment from a 1000 MWe nuclear power reactor is about 200,000 job-years, he said.

The work was done in collaboration with employees at Areva, the Center for Advanced Energy Studies (Idaho, USA), the Generation-IV International Forum secretariat, the Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI), the US Nuclear Energy Institute, PriceWaterHouseCoopers Strategy Group, Rosatom Central Institute, and the University of Stuttgart.


The workforce to fulfil the Harmony goal of 1000 GWe of new build by 2050 could require peak direct employment of 810,000 job-years per year, said Rothwell. "These are people passing through the gates of the plants," said Rothwell.

"The Harmony program is providing employment until 2160. We are not talking about one century. This is a project for the next two centuries."


Employment from Harmony programme 460
Employment curves from Rothwell's presentation show direct employment peaking at 800,000, should 1000 GWe of new nuclear be built by 2050, as per the World Nuclear Association's Harmony program


Given historically low rates of investment and high rates of unemployment, Rothwell said, "Now is the time to employ short-term and long-term under employed workers in building infrastructure. Nuclear power provides high-skilled, high-pay construction and supply chain jobs to lower unemployment rates and increase average wages."

Local jobs

In a 2010 study by D Harker and P Has Hirschboeck, referenced by Rothwell's presentation, nuclear was found to create 0.50 jobs per MWe of capacity. This is below solar power's 1.06 jobs per MWe, but places nuclear in a favourable group with sub-20 MWe hydro (0.45 jobs per MW), concentrating solar power (0.47 jobs per MWe), and far ahead of wind and combined cycle gas which each yield only 0.05 jobs per MWe. As larger facilities with far higher nameplate capacities, nuclear facilities come out as the largest employers of local people among clean energy sources.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News