The nuclear sector in the UK has set its sights on increasing the size of its female workforce as part of a 12-year industry growth plan which marked its second anniversary this week.

This year, 25 key organisations, including major employers from across the civil and defence sectors, and hundreds of individuals and senior figures have pledged their formal commitment to reach a 40% female workforce by 2030.

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This follows the release of a Gender Roadmap at the end of 2019, outlining an escalating programme of interventions in the areas of attraction, retention, guidance and monitoring to improve industry diversity, beginning with gender.

The Nuclear Sector Deal, published in June 2018, is a commitment between the UK government and industry to drive green economic growth and make nuclear power an integral part of the UK’s energy future.

The initial focus is to deliver on a vision up to 2030, but the Deal has the potential to be the foundation for much longer-term progress and activity.

It has four key objectives:

  • 40% women in nuclear
  • 30% reduction in the cost of new build projects
  • Savings of 20% in the cost of decommissioning compared with current estimates
  • Up to £2 billion domestic and international contract wins

After two years of the 12-year programme, 27 of the 82 commitments of the NSD have been achieved (33%). These include:

  • A comprehensive analysis of the key factors that will drive down the costs of new nuclear power stations by 30 per cent; A report summarizing this will be published this summer;
  • A National Decommissioning and Waste Management Pipeline for the UK, developed jointly by Government and civil & defence nuclear for the first time;
  • A plan to work jointly with the local and national supply chain is underway to allow new companies to support nuclear activities in the future, presenting the opportunity to introduce innovation and achieve more domestic contracts;
  • The launch of a number of programmes and grants, such as the Advanced Manufacturing and Construction Contest and the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to promote innovation in the sector.

These initiatives will help unlock intellectual property and investment and increase opportunities for local suppliers.

Welcoming the anniversary, Nadhim Zahawi, UK’s Minister for Business and Industry, said: “The nuclear sector deal is at the heart of our plan to tackle climate change and create a more diverse energy mix. Since then we have seen considerable progress, and I look forward to working with the industry as go even further to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.”

Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, added:
“By 2030, and on the road to net zero by 2050, we will need nuclear to be an integral part of our energy future. As the UK economy begins to recover from the impact of COVID-19, civil nuclear projects present shovel ready ways of boosting the economy, providing jobs and developing skills in all parts of the country. Progress on the sector deal commitments are an important part of the roadmap to the future that will enable the UK to have the clean, secure and reliable power that underpins net zero.”

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Dr Paul Hollinshead, MoD appointment on the Nuclear Industry Council, said: “Strengthening skills and controlling costs across the whole of the nuclear sector will have an important beneficial effect to the defence and security of the United Kingdom. There are many unique and exciting challenges in Defence Nuclear. The work of the NSD promotes an environment for collective coordination and integration across the wider nuclear sector, and by combining a larger cadre of nuclear-skilled people from diverse backgrounds with a more robust and efficient supply chain it can help meet these challenges.”

The UK’s nuclear sector is amongst the most advanced in the world. The existing fleet of nuclear power stations provides more than 20% of the country’s electricity and 40% of clean electricity. Its economic footprint provides tens of thousands of highly skilled jobs, driving growth in regions across the UK.