With decommissioning, waste storage and a massive clean-up bill on its plate, the
That much is clear from the debut report of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which laid bare the tough choices facing the industry, and the nation, over the coming decade.
The NDA makes clear that decisions taken now will affect generations to come, but one of the lesser-heralded sections of its massive draft strategy document raises the issue of whether the future industry will have the most important resource of all: skilled people.
According to the NDA, the
As part of a raft of proposals for maintaining an effective skills base, the NDA has allocated £25m to develop a national nuclear skills academy and a nuclear institute, both based in
As most university courses currently focus on operational skills, the academy will try to identify the particular skills needed in decommissioning and establish national standards in key operational areas.
The NDA is also seeking formal DTI approval for a National Laboratory, which would act as a bridge between industry and R&D.
The proposals suggest that the
A report from the international body warned that many countries were facing an alarming shortage of nuclear scientists and technologists. Its study, ‘Nuclear Skills — a Cause for Concern?’, highlighted the importance of maintaining an effective skills base to avoid future problems, and the perils of not doing so.
Governments of OECD member countries, including the
One of the key steps recommended in the report was the funding of academic research. Since the 1980s
However, unlike the
As the NDA report remarks, the
A new institute opened at
The institute’s business manager, Warren Richards, claimed the nuclear skills base in the
Working with the EPSRC and a number of other British universities, the Dalton Nuclear Institute is setting up the Nuclear Technology and Education Consortium (NTEC). This will establish a new postgraduate nuclear study programme aimed at both students and industry.
The institute will function as the focal point for much of the university’s current nuclear research, and plans to increase its expertise base and the scope of its activities significantly. It will focus particularly on areas where the
One of these areas is radiation science, and in particular radiation chemistry, a discipline not currently covered in any
According to Richards, the institute will provide future engineers with the facilities both to fulfil decommissioning programmes and to develop innovative new solutions to help them decommission more effectively.
Internationally the institute will be involved in collaborative advanced research into the next generation of reactors, Generation IV. Reactor technology will be a top priority for the institute, said Richards.
‘We don’t really have the academic know-how in reactor technology any more,’ he claimed. ‘We need to know how they operate and how they are designed, even if we are just buying designs from abroad.’
To this end, the institute will send researchers to
Richards said: ‘The skills exist in this country but they are all in industry, and industry is fickle. We need to have people researching nuclear technology without it being driven through commercial interests. It must be for the sake of retaining knowledge and expertise in the
Manchester University already has a well-established nuclear medicine centre, and the Dalton Institute has commissioned a report to investigate which techniques used in this field could be applied to decommissioning. One example would be the application of body imaging techniques to monitor the pipes that carry radioactive materials.
In the next few months scientists from the institute will travel to the
The Dalton Institute hopes to cover the future skill requirements for the
Investment may never reach the level of the 1970s or 1980s,’ he said, ‘but we hope to go some way towards remedying the situation.’