British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced a “national endeavour” to secure the future of the UK’s defence and civil nuclear industry during a visit to the nuclear submarine base in Barrow-in-Furness. The UK government said: “Domestic nuclear capability is vital to our national defence and energy security, underpinning our nuclear deterrent and securing cheaper, more reliable energy for UK consumers. The nuclear industry is growing rapidly, requiring 50% more highly skilled workers in the next ten years – and we need to train a new generation of British talent.”

The Government is partnering with industry, including BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, EDF and Babcock, to invest at least £763m ($961m) by 2030 in skills, jobs and education. “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 – and will support plans to double the number of nuclear apprentices and graduates and quadruple the number of specialist science and nuclear fission PhDs.”

While the main focus of the “endeavour” was defence and support for Barrow-in-Furness, it was also welcomed by the nuclear industry. David Lockwood, CEO Babcock International and member of the Nuclear Skills Executive Council said it was “a fantastic opportunity for the UK to deliver a stronger nuclear industry that will contribute to the resilience of the UK’s independent deterrent and will support the UK’s energy security ambitions and net zero targets”.

Simone Rossi, CEO EDF in the UK and also a member of the Nuclear Skills Executive Council said EDF “welcomes the joint commitments announced today and looks forward to working with Government and industry to help deliver the great opportunities for people who choose to work in the nuclear sector”. EDF said “in 2024 it is hiring a further 1,000 people into its UK nuclear family – in operations, construction, engineering support and many other exciting roles”. The majority will be apprentices and graduates, as well as those with relevant skills from other industries. Rosi added: “As we have learned in recent years there is an urgent need to attract, train and inspire the next generation of people who can design, build, operate and decommission existing and new nuclear facilities.”

Rolls Royce also welcomed the initiative. Steve Carlier, President at Rolls-Royce Submarines and member of the Nuclear Skills Executive Council said: “It is an exciting and fascinating time for the industry as both civil and defence organisations collaborate to ensure we all have a strong and sustainable pipeline of talent coming into the world of nuclear.”

He said nuclear has the power to protect and help meet the growing demand for clean energy. “From opening our Nuclear Skills Academy, which welcomes 200 apprentices every year for at least the next decade, and our recently announced site expansion work, which is creating over 1,000 new highly-skilled jobs in Derby, to new satellite offices creating almost 300 jobs in Glasgow and Cardiff, Rolls-Royce is playing a pivotal role in supporting this national endeavour.”

The investment in nuclear skills, which includes £350m from the Government and more than £400m from industry, will create some 5,000 new apprenticeships in the next four years, according to the Government. It will also drive private investment and create job opportunities for everyone from specialist scientists and engineers, to welders and electricians, to project managers and Royal Navy submariners.

Image: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has declared a 'national initiative' aimed at safeguarding the future of the UK's defense and civil nuclear sectors (courtesy of UK Government)