The week ahead: why nuclear energy could be the answer

Senior reporter

There’s good news for small manufacturers, bad news for BAE Systems employees and a chance to hear the environmental case for nuclear in this week’s briefing.

Briefing starts with good news this morning and another sign the economic recovery is picking up pace. Temperatures may be plummeting but optimism among small and medium-sized manufacturers is rising at a record pace, according to the CBI business organisation.

The latest SME Trends Survey found domestic orders rose in the three months to at their fastest rate since January 1995 while export orders were back to early 2011 levels, and optimism around export prospects for the next 12 months increased strongly. As a result, manufacturers expect production, employment and investment all to increase over the coming months.

Sadly the employees of BAE Systems’ shipyards in Portsmouth and Glasgow are facing a less positive situation. The GMB union is starting a two-day meeting today in an attempt to save as many jobs as possible and preserve manufacturing skills, following the announcement of 1,775 redundancies brought about by the upcoming end to the aircraft carrier construction contract. The company is expected to announce further details of the redundancies on Wednesday.

For young people with grim employment prospects, more vocational qualifications (VQs) are the answer, according to nearly three-quarters of 1000 employers surveyed by The Edge Foundation and City & Guilds.

The new research, commissioned for this week’s Skills Show in Birmingham, found 72 per cent of employers see vocational qualifications as essential for improving young people’s skills and over half of these firms (35 per cent) thought (VQs) were more valuable than academic ones.

In Bristol, meanwhile, an event on Thursday will bring together inventors of impressive innovations, including a part 3D-printed robotic hand and something described as a “spacecraft vending machine”, with investors and business support providers.

The free, not-for-profit Venturefest will feature 40 companies from across south-west England operating in industries including biotech, robotics, agriculture, manufacturing, electronics, energy, software and gaming, all of whom are looking for finding or collaborators to help take their ideas forward.

And finally, as Fukushima in Japan begins its transformation from a nuclear disaster site into a renewable energy hub with the launch of an experimental floating offshore windfarm, the UK is preparing for the release of a controversial pro-nuclear documentary.

A growing number of environmentalists are turning to nuclear as a way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and Pandora’s Promise by director Robert Stone puts forward those arguments while trying to address the myths surrounding atomic energy.

The film will be released on Friday and will also form part of a mini festival in London’s Brixton on Saturday, showing alongside five other documentaries exploring the pros and cons of nuclear generation and a panel discussion featuring Stone and several of his fellow filmmakers.