Print
Dear Sir
Your VIPs' Open Letter supporting Sizewell C because of the jobs is a strange approach to a very serious issue. Does it mean that all other considerations should be set aside? If so, is there any merit in the job creation argument ?
if it were built, about 150 to 200 new permanent jobs would be provided, in the main highly specialised. They would come from a massive capital investment of about £20bn, much of it paid for by a 35 year inflation-proofed price subsidy which would also be a wage subsidy, of course. This would be paid for by us as consumers and taxpayers. It woukd give Sizewell a 40% price advantage and guaranteed profits for over half of its 60 year life.That's truly a gigantic pot of money for not many jobs, and subsidised wages of a kind that most ordinary Suffolk workers can only dream about.

It begs the question about whether this sort of money might not be better spent and create considerably more jobs...Doing continuous coastal protection might be better value, permanent and considerably more labour intensive. Fair questions, since the project is to be publically subsidised, regulated and guaranteed, and not just a private market venture. The fact that its profits will go to the French government and China's nuclear company means, of coyrse, that we are being taxed without even getting the putative benefit back. And we, consumers and taxpayers meet all the risks into the bargain.

The new skills issue needs to be looked at carefully too: two obvious considerations here. Firstly, the tiny number of apprenticeships in nuclear engineering are to be taught in Portsmouth, not Suffolk. Secondly, the real skills shortage in the nuclear industry is for workers prepared to do the vast nuclear waste clean up work, mainy at Sellafield, to contain the world's biggest nuclear waste stockpile - yes, that's the UK for you.This much needed work, and insulating all of our housing stock,for example, doesn't seem to attract Open Letters, despite being superb steady job creators compared to a new Sizewell.

The there's the construction workforce - 5,000 or so for maybe 15 years. Well, many are also highy skilled and won't be local. EDF say they can cut costs by 20% by bringing the existing workforce from Hinkley C in Somerset, so again, not much help to Suffolk job seekers. Lots of workers will be doing a 90 minute commute twice a day. Not very local, really.

What is likely is that some Suffolk workers for a period might get better wages by leaving their current jobs, as they will have a right to do. But what sort of gain will that be to Suffolk overall ? When construction winds down, will the old jobs be there any more ? The tourism and nature jobs will be gone in large part, and a flattened economy will emerge. Normally big investments attract supply chains and spawn new businesses. Not evident for nuclear power stations though: typically - except in the case of Leiston, they are in isolated places, for safety reasons, and new businesses cluster elsewhere. It's called the economic blight phenomenon. Leiston hasn't been a boom town with nuclear for a long time, so why should it change ?

And then there is the traditional unemployment justification - public investment, subsidized jobs to get people off the dole queques.That doesn't seem to apply in Suffolk, currently boasting high levels of employment, according to our VIP leaders and the statistics.

Serious people can't see sustained economic value in it. EDF's own figures for net contribution to the Suffolk economy are, in their modesty, perhaps an unusual example of realism about the whole project. New nuclear power is actually old nuclear power. The Sizewell proposal is a third or fourth generation model unable to compete with revolutionary and successful changes in renewable energy and equally important changes in distribution and consumption.

I doubt pension fund investors will take a much notice of such a banal and misguided Open Letter. Given that some signatories are educationalists, maybe there is a lesson: with "Open Letters", look before you leap !

Regan Scott, Great Bealings
Category: Local Letters