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Nuclear-21 members were in attendance last week at the Global Nuclear Investment Summit in London (organised by the Financial Times and Ocean Nuclear). One of the speakers at the event was The Viscount Hanworth, Professor David Pollock, who has been active in the debate of the Nuclear Safeguards Bill. Viscount Hanworth described what he sees as the challenge for the UK to be ready to carry out its own nuclear safeguarding activities from March 2019, saying that the Office for Nuclear Regulation will need to double its number of inspectors by this date, and then triple its numbers by 2021, and that the time taken to train and qualify a nuclear inspector will make this target effectively unreachable.
He also reiterated points he made during the second reading of the Nuclear Safeguards Bill in the House of Lords, regarding the costs of preparing to carry out safeguarding activities outside of EURATOM. He stated that the cost of purchasing and installing the necessary equipment will be at least £150 million, with an annual ongoing cost of carrying out safeguarding of at least £10 million. In the ViewPoint, we estimated the share of the total EURATOM safeguarding budget as applied to the UK, and found that “the proportionate share of the UK contribution to the EURATOM safeguards budget would amount to €2.25 million”. This is equivalent to ~£2 million, meaning that the ongoing costs of UK safeguarding outside EURATOM will be approximately fives times the costs of safeguarding within EURATOM, with an upfront investment of £150 million.
Viscount Hanworth also discussed the issues he foresees not only with nuclear trade, but in particular the international movement of nuclear-skilled people following Brexit. He is concerned that the industry’s access to skilled workers will be impacted, causing delays to new nuclear power plant projects. The UK has several ongoing major infrastructure projects in addition to Hinkley Point C, including HS2, the Thames Tideway and Crossrail. All of these projects, and future new nuclear projects, will require access to skilled construction workers, such as welders, steel-workers and concrete pourers. Currently at Hinkley Point C, approximately 20% of staff are not British nationals. Following Brexit, new UK government immigration policies may prevent such workers from entering or working in the UK, and training British workers to the same level or gaining exceptions to allow the migration of such workers from other countries will take time.