If it's jobs they want, Labour and the unions must back renewables, not Hinkley C

If the unions were so bothered about jobs, they should be supporting renewables, not nuclear. But could it be that those are the 'wrong kind of jobs' - not unionised ones? Photo: Centre for Alternative Technology (www.cat.org.uk) via Flickr (CC BY).

Four of Britain's major unions are big supporters of nuclear power, writes Ian Fairlie - all because of the jobs. Now Labour's shadow energy minister has joined them in backing Hinkley C - even though renewable energy is a far better job-creator than nuclear, and already employs three times more people.

On July 28, the Prime Minister's Office announced a delay until the autumn to allow a review to take place re the nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C proposed by the previous Government. Since then, press criticisms of the mooted Hinkley C have continued unabated led by flagship editorials from the FT and The Economist. These echo widespread concerns by the National Audit Office (NAO) in its recent preliminary report - Nuclear Power in the UK.

According to EdF Energy, only 900 direct permanent jobs would be created at Hinkley C, were it ever to be constructed. Even this is a likely overestimate, as on average UK nuclear power stations only employ about 600 workers. Although about 4,500 jobs would exist each year during any construction, EdF has admitted most would be temporary and filled by overseas workers.

And these permanent jobs would come at a hefty price. Independent analysts estimate each nuclear job at Hinkley would cost consumers an extra £800,000 per year compared to jobs in renewables in terms of increased costs of electricity.

Although ill-informed leaders of a few large unions support nuclear for jobs reasons, many trade unionists do not. The excellent 2014 report A Million Climate Jobs by 24 energy analysts and trade union officials reveals the large potential for jobs in the renewables and explicitly eschews nuclear power.

Trade union leaders may think that nuclear power is a major provider of jobs. It is not. The recent analysis of jobs in the energy sector published by the Office of National Statistics reveals only 15,500 direct jobs in nuclear power compared with 43,500 direct jobs in renewables - including renewable heat, renewable combined heat and power, bioenergy and alternative fuels in 2014.

Of course it may be that the four main unions backing nuclear power - GMB, Unite, Ucatt, and Prospect - do so not for the sake of jobs, but only for the sake of jobs within their unions. That would be understandable - but if that's the case they should admit this and stop saying nuclear provides lots of 'jobs'.

UK renewables already employ three times as many people as nuclear

In fact, the ONS figure is flattering, as about 9,000 of the 15,500 workers are engaged in nuclear reprocessing at Sellafield in Cumbria. The reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel is a filthy, dangerous, polluting and essentially useless activity which produces not a single watt of electricity and consumes a great deal of it. It also accounts for most of NDA's whopping ~£3 billion annual operating bill which taxpayers are forced to pay. We shall return to the nonsense of nuclear reprocessing in a future article.

If we accept the ONS estimate, the renewables sector employs about three times as many people as nuclear. In future it is clear this ratio will increase as the number of nuclear jobs is declining with the closure of old nuclear power stations.

http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2988060/if_its_jobs_they_want_labour_and_the_unions_must_back_renewables_not_hinkley_c.html
2016-08-30
If it's jobs they want, Labour and the unions must back renewables, not Hinkley C

Four of Britain's major unions are big supporters of nuclear power, writes Ian Fairlie - all because of the jobs. Now Labour's shadow energy minister has joined them in backing Hinkley C - even though renewable energy is a far better job-creator than nuclear, and already employs three times more people.

If the unions were so bothered about jobs, they should be supporting renewables, not nuclear. But could it be that those are the 'wrong kind of jobs' - not unionised ones? Photo: Centre for Alternative Technology (www.cat.org.uk) via Flickr (CC BY).