France to invest 100 million euros in boosting nuclear training, innovation

By America Hernandez

PARIS (Reuters) – France will on Friday grant more than 100 million euros ($107.8 million) to train workers and boost innovation in civil nuclear projects over the next decade, part of a wider plan to relaunch the ailing sector, the energy and education ministries said.

The government will also receive a plan from the nuclear industry breaking down its needs, after an initial estimate earlier this year that it required 100,000 new recruits by 2033. The sector currently employs 220,000 workers in France.

The job plan, seen by Reuters, highlights the Normandy and Auvergne Rhone-Alpes regions as most in need of skilled workers due to their high numbers of nuclear plants, waste storage sites and research facilities.

Twenty jobs are listed as particularly affected by shortages, including automation engineers, boilermakers, draftsmen, electricians, maintenance technicians, blacksmiths, pipe fitters and welders.

On Friday 42 million euros from the national France 2030 fund will go to create training programs, with the Normandy region announcing additional funds for local training on Friday.

The training push follows French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to spend around 10 billion euros to renationalise EDF, the debt-laden group which owns and operates the French reactor fleet, and to convene a pan-European nuclear alliance.

The job report does not estimate overall training investment needs, but the cost of worker shortages was seen last year when prolonged maintenance outages at EDF drove nuclear electricity output to 30-year lows, resulting in a record net loss of 17.9 billion euros.

Former CEO Jean-Bernard Levy blamed the lack of specialised staff for the difficulties in quickly fixing its reactors.

Some 40 million euros from France’s research budget will go to supplying new equipment to Ganil, the national heavy-ion accelerator facility in the city of Caen, northwest of Paris.

More than 25 million euros will also be granted to three innovation projects by startups Newcleo and Naarea to develop fast reactors running on used nuclear fuel, and by EDF subsidiary Nuward for small modular reactors.

($1 = 0.9276 euros)

(Editing by Jan Harvey)