UK invests in next generation of talent for nuclear industry

Investment will create more than 8,000 career opportunities in the nuclear sector by the end of the decade

HMS Anson, the fifth Astute class submarine, which BAE Systems has designed and built for the Royal Navy, at the company's shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, in February 2023. BAE Systems / PA
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The British government is linking up with industry, including BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, EDF and Babcock, to invest at least £763 million [$961 million] by 2030 in skills, jobs and education for the next generation of nuclear talent.

The investment will create more than 8,000 career opportunities to help the sector fill 40,000 new jobs by the end of the decade.

It will also support plans to double the number of nuclear apprentices and graduates, and quadruple the number of specialist science and nuclear fission PhDs.

Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria is the home of the UK’s Astute-class nuclear submarines, the new Dreadnought programme and UK Aukus submarine production.

During a visit to the town on Monday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will announce the Barrow Transformation Fund, committing a minimum of £20 million a year over the next 10 years to make Barrow an even more attractive place to live, work, and build a nuclear career.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps will also publish the government’s Defence Nuclear Enterprise Command Paper, setting out the full breadth of activity to sustain and modernise the UK’s continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent – a cornerstone of national and global security for more than 55 years.

It is expected to outline how the UK will deliver what is necessary to maintain an independent nuclear deterrent.

This includes advancing plans to bring new Dreadnought-Class submarines into service in the early 2030s, deepening co-operation with Australia and the US under the Aukus agreement, and upgrading key infrastructure.

“Safeguarding the future of our nuclear deterrent and nuclear energy industry is a critical national endeavour," Mr Sunak said.

“In a more dangerous and contested world, the UK’s continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent is more vital than ever. And nuclear delivers cheaper, cleaner, home-grown energy for consumers.

“That’s why we are investing in Barrow, the home of UK submarines, and in the jobs and skills of the future in the thriving British nuclear industry.

"Today we usher in the next generation of our nuclear enterprise, which will keep us safe, keep our energy secure, and keep our bills down for good.”

“Barrow is at the heart of the UK’s submarine enterprise and as the custodian of our submarine design and build capability, we’re incredibly proud of the role we play in the Astute, Dreadnought and now SSN-Aukus programmes," said Charles Woodburn, chief executive of BAE Systems.

"Today's announcement reinforces the importance of continued investment in critical nuclear skills at a time of significant growth for our submarines business and our 13,500 employees.

“The long-term vision set out in the command paper is hugely welcome and will support the necessary infrastructure development and recruitment required for the delivery of these important national security programmes.”

Updated: March 24, 2024, 10:32 PM