In times of economic hardship, it is difficult to resist the promise of jobs. EDF have claimed that building Sizewell C could create 25,000 jobs. This claim is extremely misleading. EDF expect that the average length of contracts for construction workers would be 1 year, and they calculated the number of jobs based on this.1 The 25,000 jobs are each for 1 year: if everyone worked for 2 years, the 25,000 is halved, 5 years and the figure is 5000 and so on. Using EDF’s own figures, if the number of jobs is calculated using a person’s normal working life of 45 years, the number of jobs is equivalent to only 580 permanent jobs.
As the project moves through the stages of construction, groups of workers will be replaced by others from different trades. The short-term nature of the employment (average 1 year) means that it would be unsuitable for young people wishing to develop a career in this industry sector, as training is usually done via apprenticeships which normally take 2-3 years. People will be expected to prepare for jobs which may last for less time than that required for training.
EDF expects that only 20% of the jobs will go to local people (based on the building of Hinkley C power station). According to the 2011 Leiston Town Appraisal, only 4% of people (roughly 31 workers) responded nuclear when asked the question, “if you are working, into which category does your job fall?” This 4% figure will also include some Sizewell A workers.
Short duration, capital intensive construction projects like that proposed at Sizewell C have been shown to seriously distort the local labour market. The bulk of those employed are often from outside the area. After the project is completed, many migrant workers remain in the area, compounding local employment problems. Even when an effort is made to hire local people, the construction project can have a detrimental effect by competing with local firms for a limited number of skilled workers. In some cases where a local firm is already in difficulty, the higher wages offered on a large construction project can be the last straw. Evidence suggests that major construction projects in rural areas prevent the growth of employment in more stable industries and increase unemployment over the longer term.
 French, M “The Impact of a Power Station on Gwynedd”. Gwynedd County Council Planning Office, September 1976. See Hanlon, J “Is Gwynedd a Developing Country?” New Scientist 4th May 1978
Nuclear Compared With Other Power Generation
Every pound invested in nuclear jobs is a pound not invested in jobs in other sectors. Nuclear power produces fewer jobs per unit energy than any other form of electricity generation. Research shows that for every Terawatt hour of energy produced from small scale wind energy 1,000 people per year will have been employed; however a Terawatt hour of nuclear power only employs 75 people per year. This is because most of the costs for nuclear build go into the construction materials whereas the costs for wind come primarily from employing people.
If nuclear new builds fail to go ahead, then energy efficiency measures, decentralisation of electricity generating plants and conservation of energy would need to be increased and investment in other energy sources such as combined heat and power (CHP), wind and solar power would have to be accelerated. The graphs below show the contrast between employment in nuclear and wind energy.
Wind has been used as an illustration because data for wind energy is readily available and the east coast already has a growing wind industry. Many studies have shown that the UK electricity generation target – even with an electrified transport sector – its carbon reduction and cost targets can be met without the use of nuclear power.
 Electrical energy consumption rate equivalent to a trillion watts consumed in one hour.
The graph shows the expected jobs created by 16GWe of new build nuclear.
Employment peaks at 14,000 jobs 10 years after construction begins, 6,000 of
which are permanent for the duration of the build. However once Sizewell C becomes
operational, long term permanent jobs on site are only expected to reach
Projections for employment in the wind energy show a very different profile with a gradual increase in employment: This in part reflects the large number of smaller units required for wind generation. As can be seen offshore wind alone could produce 23,000 MWe of installed capacity and nearly 30,000 jobs by 20214.
The continued success of wind and marine energy is dependent on attracting skilled workers. There were around 10,000 people employed in these industries in 2010, and approximately 88,000 will be needed in wind and marine industries by 2021. This represents a huge opportunity to create UK jobs.
In addition to swallowing up investment that could go into renewable energy, Sizewell C could damage the existing tourist industry which relies on a reputation for a clean environment to attract business. The value of the tourist industry to Suffolk is currently estimated as 1.7 billion and rising.
During the construction of Sizewell b the beach was turned into a massive building site. The large influx of workers to build the new reactor had a huge impact on Leiston. As one local campaigner said at a public meeting with DECC
“during the construction of Sizewell B. Leiston became like the back-end of the docks – people didn’t want to go to shops or pubs”
Quality of Jobs
There are important questions arising about the quality of construction jobs at nuclear sites. There are currently two reactors of the type proposed for Hinkley C and Sizewell C being built in Europe. One is at Flamanville in France and the other at Olkiluoto in Finland. Both have attracted severe criticism for carelessness over workplace rights and health and safety matters.
The calculations of the cost of new nuclear plants are based on the premise that the first site will cost more than the subsequent ones because lessons will be learned and experience will be gained through construction of the primary plant. A major factor in the delays at the nuclear power stations under construction at Flamanville and Olkiluoto has been due to a shortage of experienced subcontractors. Given this fact, it is highly likely that a considerable proportion of the Sizewell new build will go to specialised subcontractors currently working on these and similar projects.
A 2008 Greenpeace study of the Olkiluoto 3 power station revealed that all significant subcontracts have been won by foreign companies and even in Olkiluoto itself, about a third of the workforce is Finnish and two thirds are foreigners. Polish and German workers account for 18 percent of the workforce, while 9 percent are expert welders from Croatia. A maximum of 25% of the investment in the plant stays in Finland.
“Olkiluoto has been a complete disappointment for us. There have been fewer than 100 Finnish builders there. It is the view of our experts that huge amounts of cheap labour have been brought here from abroad to work inefficiently” Said Kyösti Suokas, co-chairman of the Finnish Construction Union.5
In relation to Flamanville, Yannick Rousselet from Greenpeace France said
‘There are 18 different nationalities working there and most of the work is done by sub-contractors. This means there is no job security and the pay is poor. Workers get shipped in and shipped out and have none of the benefits of permanent work.’
He added: ‘People have been flooding into the area because they have heard that work is available but then they find there is nothing. This means that local unemployment has actually increased since construction at Flamanville began.’’6
Nuclear tends to rely on huge investment which has always come from large national programmes using taxpayer’s money. Such investments tend to be intermittent varying with changes in policy or political leadership.
2 French, M “The Impact of a Power Station on Gwynedd”. Gwynedd County Council Planning Office, September 1976. See Hanlon, J “Is Gwynedd a Developing Country?” New Scientist 4th May 1978
5 Concrete cover ups and others at nuclear construction site, Helsingin Sanomat, February 2010
6 Workers at Hinkley C nuclear power plant in for a raw deal, Stop Hinkley
This information is also available as a leaflet.