In August 2016, I wrote an article for The Ecologist indicating that the widespread belief that nuclear power was a good source of employment was a myth. In fact, a shibboleth.
The article stated that Office for National Statistics (ONS) data for 2014 indicated only 15,500 direct jobs in nuclear power compared with 43,500 direct jobs in renewables – ie RE provided about three times more direct jobs than nuclear.
This is important as a few large trade unions and the TUC use the jobs argument as their main reason for defending nuclear power. These unions influence Labour Party policies.
Recently, the ONS published a new updated study “UK environmental accounts: Low carbon and renewable energy economy survey, final estimates: 2015”.
This study reveals that in 2015 the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) direct jobs in nuclear had declined to 12,400, while the number of FTE direct jobs in the renewable forms of electricity generation had increased to 48,900 – in total about four times more than in nuclear. The disparity between them is increasing.
[Note. These data are not printed physically in the report, but they are electronically. Go to Figure 2 in the online version of the ONS report and place one’s cursor on the relevant bars of the histogram. The revealed percentage figures can easily be converted to absolute numbers.]
In fact, the ONS figure for nuclear energy is inaccurate and misleading, as about 9,400 of the 12,400 nuclear workers do not produce electricity at all. They are engaged at Sellafield in Cumbria, mostly in nuclear reprocessing. The reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel is a filthy, dangerous, polluting and essentially useless activity which produces no electricity: instead, it consumes a great deal of it. Reprocessing accounts for much of NDA’s annual operating bill of ~£3 billion for which taxpayers pick up the tab. For more on the financial, environmental and ethical nonsense of nuclear reprocessing, see my article on reprocessing.
The new ONS report also contains other interesting data. From the figures it presents, it can be calculated that ONS uses a multiplier of 0.85 to estimate the number of indirect jobs created in the whole RE and low carbon sector. If we apply this to the 48,900 direct jobs in renewable electricity generation, then the total number of direct plus indirect jobs in RE would be more than 90,000 jobs.
In the wider RE and low carbon (LC) segment, the ONS report states there are 234,000 direct plus 200,000 indirect jobs to give a total of 434,000 FTE jobs overall. It should be noted that this RE and LC segment includes low emission vehicles and transport, energy monitoring savings and control systems, and energy efficiency products.
Rather surprisingly, the biggest single sector is energy efficient products, which covers the design, production and installation of doors and windows, heating and ventilation, insulation, and sustainable buildings and architecture. This sector alone provides more than 102,000 direct FTE jobs. Among other sectors, the efficient lights sector provides 25,000 FTE jobs, and the low carbon financial advice sector 15,000 FTE jobs. Nuclear’s ~3,000 jobs is a drop in the bucket in comparison.
Conclusion. In round terms, in 2015 nuclear electricity generation provided about 3,000 direct jobs and the renewable electricity generation provided about 49,000 direct jobs, ie about 16 times more.