Employment in the Nuclear and Wind Electricity Generating Sectors

July 2020

Download the technical position paper

Low-carbon generating technologies vary significantly in the employment that they create.

Employment is created largely during the construction stage and throughout the network of supply chain companies needed to maintain operations.

Most employment estimates in the sector are ‘point-in-time’, i.e. they provide a snapshot rather than a view over the entire plant lifetime. The rapid growth of wind power thus distorts the contribution it might make in a ‘steady state’ of neither growth nor decline.

This paper uses existing studies for specified countries to estimate employment in a steady state for both nuclear and wind energy.

By separating employment into several distinct stages – construction; operations and maintenance; supply chain; and decommissioning – a steady state employment estimate is presented for the generation of 1000 TWh of electricity over a year. On the basis of data from France and the USA, for this amount of electricity nuclear creates 461,000 jobs to wind’s 346,000 jobs, i.e. about 25% more employment per unit of electricity than wind power.

Other attractive features of nuclear sector employment include comparatively good pay, long-term job security and a high degree of localisation in the host country.

Although nuclear generation requires significant investment in employment, it maintains a competitive advantage over intermittent sources of low-carbon electricity such as wind. As a highly reliable and stable source of electricity, nuclear generation does not require additional investment in backup capacity or storage, while investments in grids are relatively low. When the total costs of the plant and system are taken into account, nuclear offers not only more local and national job opportunities but also provides cheaper decarbonized electricity than wind.