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Soaring salaries to hit nuclear clean-up budgets

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UK NUCLEAR decommissioning costs will rocket on the back of rapidly rising salaries for skilled engineers, experts warned this week.

The nuclear industry will be forced to pay engineers 20% to 25% more than they earn in other sectors, predicted Tobias Read, chief executive of specialist recruitment firm EPC Global.

Pay increases will be needed if the sector is to attract staff with the skills needed to tackle decommissioning and possible nuclear new build.

Soaring pay means that the government's decommissioning cost models 'will have to be radically readjusted, ' said Read.

'Government probably calculated the cost of decommissioning two years ago on the basis of available skills in a nonelastic market, ' he added.

Other experts agreed. Dave Kirby, managing director of decommissioning contractor Jordan Nuclear explained that the industry faced a skills black hole that could only be plugged by raising salaries.

'It's going to be very difficult to persuade people to come across [to the nuclear sector] when you've got lots of highly paid construction jobs elsewhere in the UK, ' he said.

Read also claimed that the skills shortage could soon be heightened as the United States is planning to relax its visa requirements to attract people with expertise in areas like nuclear engineering.

'In the last 18 months, engineering salaries have gone up 30% to 35%, especially in the oil and gas sectors, which require similar skills to nuclear.

'To attract people into the nuclear industry, you'll have to pay people 20% to 25% on top of that.' Read warned that employers would have to pay an additional premium to get staff for decommissioning work because it will be mainly in remote locations, like Dounreay in northern Scotland.

The problem is aggravated by the short-term nature of funding for decommissioning projects.

'Decommissioning is still funded on a year to year basis which encourages short term decision making on the part of people hiring, ' said Read.

'Contracts tend to be for only 12 months - why would you want to work in an industry where there is so little security?' The short-term nature of contracts also makes it near impossible for those engineers who may want to join the nuclear industry to clock up experience.

'There's no incentive to bring people on, ' said Read.

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