The study, conducted as part of the BSA’s Future Forum programme, was funded by Urenco. The results show that young people are open to careers in nuclear energy, but do not feel they are well enough informed about it in the classroom, via media or wider society. The research showed that 14 to 18-year-olds felt more informed about renewables and fossil fuels than they did nuclear.
According to BSA, the most critical issue for improving young people’s lives in the future was climate change. In total, 45 per cent ranked it as their top concern, stating they wanted to learn more about how nuclear could contribute to this in terms of cleaner, more efficient and more sustainable energy, and how it compares to other sources such as fossil fuels. They also wanted access to clear and transparent information concerning the safety of nuclear energy, its cost, and how nuclear energy is generated.
Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of young people said they would be interested in careers in nuclear, while 15 per cent said they would like to find out more.
In a statement, Hannah Russell, chief executive of the BSA, said: “We’re really pleased to bring young people’s views about nuclear energy to the fore. With the climate crisis being such a concern, it is imperative that we provide future generations with the access to the knowledge and skills they need to fully understand not only the nuclear industry, but other topics essential in the national and global net zero journey.”
A good knowledge of maths and science were perceived to be amongst the top three attributes needed for a career in the nuclear energy sector and they would like more information about pay, the diversity of people and job roles. Nearly a third (32 per cent) believed a degree or post-graduate qualification was necessary to work in the nuclear industry, and 11 per cent identified an apprenticeship as a route into the industry.
The Future Forum programme has been run since 2017 to give young people an opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns on science and technology topics.
This study centred around an initial survey of 1,000 14 to 18-year-olds in England, Scotland and Wales, with two follow-up workshops, attended by 39 young people.
The report’s recommendations are to:
- Better inform young people about how nuclear energy contributes to net zero goals; how it is generated, its safety record; and careers in the industry.
- Ensure communication about nuclear energy is factual, balanced, accessible and transparent, being mindful of existing perceptions of nuclear and knowledge gaps, and making it relevant to young people’s daily lives and how they can get involved in shaping the industry.
- Establish a network of youth ambassadors, potentially drawing upon the expertise of young people who have a personal connection to nuclear, asking for their advice on communications campaigns and strategies related to education and careers.
Boris Schucht, CEO of Urenco, said: “It’s clear that young people must be provided with the opportunity to learn more widely about all sources of energy to be able to take part in valuable public discourse on topics like energy security, as well as to consider meaningful, rewarding careers in science and technology.
“We will work with our partners, including the British Science Association, to progress the recommendations, increasing the awareness and knowledge of nuclear energy and attracting a wider pool of future talent to the industry.”