Why it's too soon to know what impact Hinkley Point will have on Welsh jobs and the economy

The new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point will create 25,000 construction and supply chain jobs.

The new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point will create 25,000 construction and supply chain jobs.

As the first new nuclear power station to be built in the UK for 20 years Hinkley Point C holds the promise of bringing thousands of jobs and millions of pounds in benefits to the local economy.

And if other new plants are approved it could be the start of a bonanza in nuclear power construction lasting years into the future.

The figures for Hinkley Point are impressive. The project is expected to inject £16bn into the economy and to create 25,000 jobs while it is being built, including 5,600 who will be employed on the site at the peak of construction.

Hinkley Point gets go-ahead to become first nuclear plant in UK for 20 years

In addition the French energy giant behind the scheme, EDF, says it will aim to create 1,000 apprenticeships during the construction phase. And there will be 900 people permanent staff working at the power station during its 60 years of operations.

What is less clear however is how many of these jobs will come to Wales. Studies from the construction of Sizewell B in Suffolk have been used to suggest that construction workers will not normally travel more than 90 minutes to work, a distance that just about stretches to Newport.

Artist's impression of plans for the new Hinkley Point C nuclear power station

But Milica Kitson, chief executive of Constructing Excellence in Wales, said that construction workers would "follow the work and follow the money".

EDF says it expects 5,000 of the 25,000 construction posts to be filled by Somerset residents, but hasn't said where it expects the remaining 20,000 to come from. But representatives of the construction and civil engineering industries are optimistic that many jobs will come to Wales.

Ms Kitson said: "This will provide huge opportunities for a long time to come. It's not just the power station itself but all the ancillary buildings around it, such as the visitor centre.

Welsh steel will help build the new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point

Keith Jones, director of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Cymru said: "Wales has lagged behind in the recovery and now we're going into harsher times. This will be an excellent bonus to the economy of South Wales."

And it's not just in more construction jobs where Wales could see the benefit. Jobs in the nuclear industry are well paid. At Wylfa A the average salary was £35,000 compared to an average for the island of £22,000, according to Dylan Thomas, the head of economic development at Anglesey Council.

At Trawsfynydd, which is going through the complicated and expensive process of decommissioning, average wages are £55,000 in an area where the average household income is 29% below the UK average.

But while construction workers will benefit, there could be a downside for Wales. Ed Evans, director of the Civil Engineering Contractors' Association (CECA) Wales, warned that the project could prove to be a double-edged sword.

The consultation over an M4 relief road was launched last month Construction at Hinkley Point could impact on other infrastructure projects in Wales

"It will give direct benefits very quickly to companies that are involved, but it will act as a pull from South Wales and that will have an impact on other infrastructure projects. The danger is that Hinkley Point will come first and will suck resources out of Wales and we'll see prices rise for the M4 and tidal lagoons."

The danger, as Keith Jones pointed out, is that peak construction at Hinkley, which could come in the early 2020s, could overlap with work on projects such as the South Wales Metro, Swansea Bay tidal lagoon and the new nuclear power station at Wylfa. "We could have a skill shortage if all the projects go on at the same time," he said.

Ms Kitson said: "It will give us a problem if and when we build infrastructure projects in Wales." She added that we might have to pull in workers from elsewhere to complete the Welsh projects.

Some of that pressure on labour could come from other nuclear energy projects in Wales. Up in Anglesey Horizon has opened its second stage consultation on Wylfa Newydd and plans to submit a planning application next spring. At peak construction up to 10,000 people will be working on the build, with 850 permanent jobs during operation.

Meanwhile at Trawsfynydd there are plans to develop the site to host a new generation of small modular reactors. Similar in concept to the reactors that power submarines, these factory built reactors could be shipped around the country and installed in mini local power stations. They are seen by advocates as the future of nuclear power.

Some sectors of Welsh industry have already seen the benefit of Hinkley even before the Government's go-ahead was announced. Last week it was revealed that 200,000 tonnes of steel reinforcing bars, made by Celsa in Cardiff and supplied by Express Reinforcements of Neath, will be used in preparatory work at the site.

Steel supplied by Neath-based Express Reinforcements and Celsa Steel in Cardiff will be used in the building of Hinkley Point C

Economy Minister Ken Skates called on the UK Government to make sure steel from Port Talbot and other Welsh producers is also used at Hinkley Point. He said: "This decision on Hinkley must be used to benefit Wales. We must now seize that opportunity to develop our manufacturing, engineering and service companies' capability and capacity to deliver into the civil nuclear sector supply chain.

"We are already in regular contact with the Hinkley Point C supply chain team to explore opportunities for Welsh companies. We will now be working to build on this to ensure the benefits of the huge investment at Hinkley are felt right across the Welsh supply chain."

38 companies express interest in building mini nuclear power station at Trawsfynydd

Jon Bolton, chief executive officer, Liberty Steel UK Plates and UK Steel Development, said: "Liberty would be and should be considered a potential supplier to Hinkley. It is critical that maximum benefit to the UK economy is derived though supply of steel from the UK."

And Welsh Conservatives leader Andrew RT Davies said: "Given the proximity of the Somerset site to Wales, there are clear opportunities here for employment and businesses, with up to 26,000 jobs and apprenticeships being created.

"We're already aware of big orders for steel emanating from this project, and we are hopeful that Hinkley will play its part in turbocharging Wales' steel economy.

"Now is the time for our highly skilled workforce to seize on the opportunity to be part of one of the biggest construction projects in 70 years."

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