Nuclear Industry will Provide Green Jobs for African Nations

Nuclear science is the panacea to global decarbonisation

The growing global expansion of nuclear technologies allows solving various issues not only in energy, healthcare, agriculture and other spheres. Thousands of high-quality jobs are created in the nuclear industry every year, which, unlike many current professions, are not threatened with being replaced by robots. This double effect is of special importance for Africa. The nuclear appears to be a major trajectory for a green transition in the energy sector for many African countries, and sustainable employment is an indispensable aspect of this task for decades to come.

The development of nuclear power has historically proven to be a catalyst for industrial and economic growth and prosperity all around the globe. Countries with limited domestic energy resources such as France, Japan or Korea are excellent examples of how nuclear energy delivers widespread industrial growth along with energy independence.

Meanwhile an inadequate level of industrialization remains the key reason for labor market troubles in African economies. The significant share of qualified highly paid jobs with a decent level of social benefits is impossible to provide without rapid growth of manufacturing sector. Therefore, the advance of the nuclear industry makes it possible to fulfill two tasks at once: the nuclear provides both energy for further steps in industrial development and a large number of jobs. The third task is also on the table: the nuclear energy with its’ zero carbon emission contributes to the global efforts for preventing negative climate change.

The Post-Covid Industrial Engine

According to the recent report of The World Nuclear Association (WNA), the nuclear workforce can
be seen as constituting some of the highest quality jobs in the industrial workforce . Moreover, the nuclear provides significantly more jobs than other varieties of green energy such as wind. The planning and construction of a nuclear power plant typically takes place over at least 10 years. Hundreds
of people will be involved in the planning and permitting processes, thousands in the construction stages.

Once the nuclear plant is in use, it still generates a lot of jobs. Worldwide nuclear workforce tends to be located near the plants, thereby providing a sustainable source of local jobs and contributing to local economic development. Typically nuclear workers reside in significant numbers (of at least 500) in the vicinity of the plant and remain with both plant and company for longer than average in the economy. This provides positive cumulative effects for various sectors – from nuclear plant subcontractors to transportation and retail on spot.

With a global nuclear fleet of about 400 Gigawatts (GW) today, nuclear energy generates about 1.2 million direct and indirect jobs, or an average of 3 000 jobs/GW, according to calculations of the European trade association for the nuclear energy industry FORATOM as of 2019. These jobs are long-term, require highly-educated people and provide high-skilled employment with premium wages that result in significant spill-over investment into the local and regional economy.

An Oxford Economics study for the Nuclear Energy Institute in the United States indicated that on average jobs in nuclear energy are 20% better paid than in fossil fuel generation, and 30% better than wind and solar generation. With nuclear energy as an integral part of a modern industrial strategy, with support for skills development, R&D, and trade and investment, nuclear development and construction will result in long-term clean growth, insists International Energy Agency (IEA), a passionate advocate of green transition .

Investing in nuclear energy, IEA adds in its’ prospect of post-Covid recovery, would create a large number of high skilled jobs, accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy and increase energy resilience. The list of those jobs includes such professions as various engineering specialties, control panel and reactor equipment operators, radiation safety managers and radiographers, dose monitoring technicians, material scientists, radiochemistry experts, industrial designers and so on, as well as jobs in finance, PR and GR, IT and vast range of line crew positions.

The Future Human Capital

At first glance, Africa, where the nuclear industry is only taking its first steps, has hopelessly lagged behind the leading nuclear powers such as Russia, France or China. In fact, the picture is not so dramatic, since the major members of the world “nuclear club” and various organizations led by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are ready to provide effective assistance to the nations that have made a choice in favor of the nuclear industry.

Improving human capital is at the forefront of these efforts. For instance, the IAEA helps various countries with personnel training for the nuclear industry. The IAEA-based School for Nuclear Energy Management offers a variety of training initiatives to tackle the problem of retaining, sharing and transferring technical knowledge – and thereby increasing the capacity of human resources in the various countries relying on nuclear power.

Many African countries are expanding the use of nuclear science for development, and some are considering nuclear power programs. For example, African Young Generation in Nuclear (AYGN) is a not-for-profit organization that brings together national networks for nuclear industry newcomers. The AYGN currently has strong national networks in South Africa, Zambia, Lesotho, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, Egypt, Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria.

AYGN’s core mission is to address the socio-economic challenges of the continent by promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology by educating the general public and facilitating the transfer of knowledge from the current generation of leading nuclear experts to the youngsters. This is effectively accomplished by offering a platform for exchange of ideas and interaction on issues related to nuclear science and technology in Africa and around the world.

Nowadays young Africans have brilliant opportunities to get an education in the countries with advance nuclear science. It is especially worth noting the efforts of Russian universities, which have maintained active connections with Africa since Soviet times. Since 2013 the Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom has been organizing free education for African students. Currently, more than 250 students from Rwanda, Ghana, Egypt, Zambia, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and South Africa study nuclear programs in Russia.

It is also important to remember that the modern nuclear industry is far from limited to energy. World nuclear science has already opened access to the unique capabilities of the peaceful atom for the development of nuclear medicine, the design and production of composite materials, agricultural technologies, food preservation, space exploration and many other areas. Here, in the near future, Africa will also need thousands of new specialists. Thus, jobs in the nuclear industry are not in danger of being destroyed by advances in automation. On the contrary, the atom will constantly create new professions.

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