Last week in Parliament I met with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. They’re the state body who will take over the operation of Torness when EDF depart. With closure anticipated for 2028 preparations are already being made. Obviously and, in terms of employment, welcomely there’ll be no significant immediate loss of work, even if ownership and management transfer. It’ll be a few years before that happens, but it will as the deconstruction of the site progresses.
But we need to start preparing for life beyond the power station. The land owned by EDF is significantly greater than the power station site. Little can be done on the latter, but the former offers huge opportunities, especially with renewable energy coming ashore nearby.
We need to ensure jobs both for workers currently working on the site and for future generations in the area seeking their first start. Its why much more needs done to ensure that jobs for locals will come from offshore renewables. Many, if not most of these turbines, will be beyond UK territorial waters which are 12 miles. Once outwith them employment laws that are mandatory onshore and even in the existing oil and gas sector don’t apply, including the minimum wage.
A staggering 85% of the UK merchant marine is now staffed by migrant labour and on rates of pay and terms and conditions of employment that aren’t acceptable in the country or even in oil and gas sites offshore. We’ve seen the appalling actions of P and O. We’ve equally seen UK seafarers working on Neart Na Gaoithe offshore windfarm site which lying in the Firth and comings ashore at Torness, similarly laid off and replaced by low waged South Asian labour.
As I stated in Parliament this isn’t anti-immigration, it’s anti-worker exploitation. Employment laws must extend to the offshore sector. Bringing in workers with specific skills that are missing’s one thing, undercutting employment rights quite another. There must be a Just Transition not just from oil and gas but nuclear. These workers and their children must be provided with the opportunity for work in the new sector.