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      France and the UK have chosen to keep nuclear energy in their energy mix. In a context of nuclear new-build projects, they have to maintain a strong skill base.

      The French Nuclear Energy Industry Group (GIFEN) estimates that 100,000 new people will have to be recruited over the next ten years. According to the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA), the British nuclear industry’s workforce must grow from 77,000 to 200,000 by 2050. These figures reflect a clear ambition and engage the responsibility of all stakeholders in the nuclear sector, starting with the Operator. How can the industry attract, integrate, train and foster loyalty in a sector that has long been overlooked?

      formation aux interventions electriques a UFPI
      Career mobility: the system is becoming tense

      Mobility between the different entities of the Group is vital. During the course of my visits in 2023, I noticed that the system is becoming more rigid. This is reflected through the dwindling numbers of cross-career paths between the DPNT and the DIPNN, a limitation on staff from Edvance hindering experience, and the difficulty in relocating some Flamanville 3 construction staff to operations or other sites. Designing reactors that incorporate operational safety will require operational experience to feed the new-build projects (see Chapter 4).

      Building cross-career paths between operations engineering and sites, between Framatome and the engineering centres, between UFPI and generating entities and engineering, or between French and British entities, enables the transfer of experience and good practices. The Group must adapt to the corporate world by leaving behind its stable head-count management model for a mobility-orientated management model. Retaining staff is not only a question of status, but also a rewarding career path. The reorganisation in engineering must take advantage of this opportunity to promote cross-career paths and create conditions that discourage silo mentalities from the start.

      chantier ecole a heysham

      Despite the final shutdowns of the AGRs, Nuclear Operations has started a recruitment campaign to maintain the skill base at the sites and in the corporate services. Heysham 2 will renew almost half of its staff in five years, while Dungeness continues recruitment with the goal of training control room operators despite the shutdown of its two reactors. Maintaining and developing competencies is one of the four cornerstones of the fleet’s improvement plan. It is based on the methodology of the Systematic Approach to Training.

      Operations: strong programmes

      Operations have proven initial and continuous training programmes. The accreditation and authorisation renewal programmes (every three years) for shift managers (SM), control room supervisors and reactor operators are strong. Each shift team benefits from a week of training every six weeks, including simulator exercises and classroom lessons. Shift managers attend so they can assess the individual and collective performance of their teams. The ‘Line of Sight to the Core’ programme by the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) has helped improve the effectiveness of these training weeks.

      The simulator instructors are experienced reactor operators or control room supervisors. They retain their authorisation and must complete a minimum of ten shifts per year to do so. To enhance the robustness and flexibility of shift teams, ‘upgrader’ roles have been created: some reactor operators are trained and authorised to cover control room supervisors, and some supervisors are trained and qualified to cover shift managers.

      Maintenance: learning by doing

      While maintenance technicians benefit from a well-organised training provision and accreditation processes, they are not as broad as those for operations staff. Maintenance recruits either apprentices or experienced staff directly from outside EDF. The training and qualification of apprentices is structured over four years, whereas technicians recruited from outside EDF will gain their first authorisation based on a combination of training and assessment in work situations. Qualification and experience matrices provide a framework for any future training and competence requirements. Training and refresher sessions ensure that technicians are able to take into account changes in maintenance practices and that any gaps identified can be resolved, e.g., cases of rework and maintenance quality.

      EDF Energy’s objective: to recruit 100% of all apprentices

      Apprenticeship remains a preferred means of recruitment for the maintenance professions at EDF Energy. This well-structured programme with well-defined success criteria, targets the recruitment of all apprentices at the end of their four-year training period.

      It starts with two years of study in an in-house training organisation, the Nuclear Skills Alliance, and continues with two years of on-site training and practical work. Despite the progressive entry of the AGRs into the defuelling and dismantling phase, this programme continues to train apprentices who will still be needed on the sites.

      Bringing maintenance back in-house: pride in doing

      At Bugey, the NSSS team has been working for several years on the re- internalisation of activities in the areas of welding, vessels and supports. Regarding welding, the team has focused on obtaining qualifications at the Welding Institute for butt and socket welding. A specific programme of in-house activities is produced for each outage. The team is also beginning to prepare a multi-year programme. As at other sites, this re- internalisation strategy forms part of a career path in which the workers, with this reinforced technical knowledge, will then be able to progress to different roles: supervisor, work specifiers, work coordinators or managers.

      The ‘Integrall’ programme: the first ‘graduates’

      The ‘Integrall’ programme recruits and integrates young engineers from Framatome’s Engineering and Technical Directorate (DTI).

      A class of forty of these engineers followed a 10-week programme that started in October 2023, to further develop their knowledge of physics, nuclear energy, Framatome, the DTI, and its facilities. Another six weeks were devoted to studying specific cases related to their future job so they would be able to quickly take up their responsibilities. About 100 young engineers are expected to follow this programme in 2024.

      Teams on the knife edge

      Other than the challenge of bringing this together, the growth in the workforce of certain groups is unprecedented. I was able to witness this in a new-build team with 20 people in 2022, which was expected to reach 50 by the end of 2023, before doubling again by the end of 2024. It is a significant challenge to maintain a balance between newcomers, the core group of specialists, and even sub-contractors. Not to mention the added difficulty of sometimes having staff based at different sites.

      Sizewell B REP de 1 200 MWe

      The management teams are aware of this risk, and beyond monitoring it and developing action plans, they have started to take organisational measures to resolve it. This is the case at Edvance with the creation of a Technical Authority bringing together experts from each department. This allows them to take a step back and resume management of the technical disciplines.

      Nevertheless, I call for a return to common sense: faced with the challenge of growth and the pressure of projects, we need to maintain reasonably sized teams that guarantee overall technical control. Their long-term efficiency will be conditioned by the strength of the teams acquired during this period of rebuilding the industry.


      According to Tal Ben-Shahar, a Harvard professor, “The choice is a simple one, learn to fail, or fail to learn.” Practice is designed for this purpose and to prevent failing the exam, which is now referred to as non-validation in politically correct terms. Whilst this makes for good relations, the performance objective is not achieved. Contrary to a basic trend in our society, the nuclear sector is not satisfied with standard results: it aims for excellence. If the required level is not reached, then a qualification should be suspended, which is a principle of individual and collective safety. This is an act of management.

      Formation sur le campus de Saclay

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