Space shuttles, airplanes and nuclear new build

Jason Ford

News Editor

A mixed bag of events kicks off tomorrow in London when major players in the nuclear power industry gather to discuss Britain’s nuclear renaissance and the nation’s energy future.

New Nuclear Build: 2011 – On the road to nuclear new build, which is taking place on July 5&6 at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster, will include discussions on key policy, the big investment decisions and public acceptance of new nuclear build.

Energy minister Charles Hendry will speak ahead of a discussion on final investment whilst Mark Higson, head of the Office for Nuclear Development will discuss policy timeline for nuclear. The issue of community engagement will be chaired by Dr. Tim Stone with a panel including community leaders from Hinkley, Sellafield and Anglesey.

Also in attendance in a morning session on July 6 is Dr Mike Weightman discussing the recommendations of his interim report to the UK government on the crisis at Fukushima, and his role leading the IAEA’s investigation into the incident.

In the event’s publicity material, Prof Roderick Smith, president of the IMechE said: ‘This is a welcome and much needed opportunity for government and industry leaders to establish the route forward for nuclear power. We need to learn from events in Japan, the reaction in Germany, and put these lessons in the context of the UK’s nuclear roll-out programme.

‘In addition to safety, it’s important to remember that we also need more clarity to key issues like financing, planning, waste management and eventual decommissioning.’

The preparation of the supply chain and timescales for orders will feature prominently and those wishing to become part of it are encouraged to attend too.

Skills are on the agenda on Wednesday as EEF, BIS and the Apprentice Ambassadors Network host a special event to boost company take up and development of apprentices.

The EEF says the event is aimed at increasing company investment in apprentices as part of a workforce development strategy. It is also aimed at providing practical advice on how companies that already employ apprentices, might develop them to benefit other parts of their business.

Around one-in-eight apprenticeship places are within manufacturing and EEF’s director of Apprentice & Skills, Peter Winebloom, believes that training new generations of skilled workers is the key to sustainable economic growth for manufacturers, large or small.

Speakers include Christine Gaskell, personnel board member for Bentley Motors, who will highlight the company’s apprenticeship success.

Still in England with news that the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition returns to the Carlton House Terrace headquarters following 2010’s Southbank Centre exhibition celebrating the Society’s 350th anniversary.

Taking place between 5-10 July, the event will showcase exhibits covering topics including invisibility, trauma surgery and spotting weapons using x-ray machines. Highlights are said to include ’Ocean Drifters’, a 360-degree immersive film narrated by Sir David Attenborough exploring the world of marine plankton.

Meanwhile, over in the USA the countdown is taking place for the final space shuttle mission before the fleet retires.

Scheduled for lift-off on Friday, space shuttle Atlantis will undertake mission STS-135, carrying with it the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module – to deliver supplies, logistics, and spare parts to the International Space Station – as well as a system to investigate the potential for robotically refuelling existing spacecraft.

Back in 1981 I had the good fortune to have a headmaster that set up a TV in the school library to show the very first shuttle launch to anyone who wanted to watch it. NASA now looks set to embrace commercial spacecraft with a view to undertaking more ambitious space initiatives. Here’s hoping school children the world over can still gather in libraries or assembly halls to watch these events when they happen for the first time.

Still with aerospace and the news that Boeing and Japan’s All Nippon Airways are scheduled to start test flights of the 787 Dreamliner passenger jet before Boeing delivers the first planes in August or September.

The Dreamliner – designed to 200 to 300 passengers – is the first commercial jet to be made predominantly of carbon composite materials, weighing up to 20 tonnes less than comparable commercial aircraft and using 20 per cent less fuel.

ANA, which has ordered 55 Dreamliners, will operate the first commercial flight around three years after the original intended delivery date.

Boeing’s European rival Airbus also knows a thing or two about composites and you can read more from The Engineer about how the European aviation giant is incorporating them into the A350-XWB by clicking here.