Pensioned-off engineers will have to be brought out of retirement if the revival of nuclear power is not to be hit by serious delays, the Government has been warned.
A shortage of professional engineers and skilled trades is threatening plans to build new nuclear power stations around the country to ensure security of electricity supply and avoid the risk of blackouts, it is claimed.
Over the next 10 years the nuclear sector will need to recruit between 5,900-9,000 graduates and 2,700-4,500 skilled trades to meet nuclear needs, a London conference will be told today.
John Earp, president of the British Nuclear Energy Society, expects nuclear engineers will have to be brought out of retirement to help with the planning, training and development of a new "nuclear generation".
"They will have to act as a stop-gap because it is unrealistic to expect retired engineers now in their 60s to be working on reactors in another ten years," he said.
The shortage of engineers is expected to be a key issue, along with funding, potential sites and the waste storage needed to complete the first new nuclear plant by 2018.
Colin Brown, director of engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, one of the conference organisers, said: "With the average age of an engineer 58, by the time the proposals come into force we are looking at an ageing population with most retired, unless we do something now."
The two-day conference will also hear John Hutton, Business Secretary, pledge government help to plug the engineering gap.
Other speakers include Bill Coley, chief executive of British Energy, which is in discussions about its future structure and role.
The Government is using its remaining stake in the company to attract new investors or partners to ensure a strong British role in the next nuclear power age.