UK has 19 reactors in commercial operating that generate up to one fifth of its electricity and all but one of these will be retired by 2023. The first of some 16 GWe of new-generation plants are expected to be on line about 2017.
Government commitment to the future of nuclear energy is firm due to energy security concerns as current reactors approach the end of operating lives, and due to the need to limit CO2 emissions. UK should aim to generate 35-40% of electricity from nuclear power beyond 2030, according to a report on energy security. The 130-page report – ‘Energy Security: A national challenge in a changing world’ – was published on 5 August 2009.
NUCLEAR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
These institutions offer a Bachelor's degree in the nuclear field: the Imperial College London, the University of Leeds, the University of Liverpool, and the Lancaster University.
At the Master's degree level, the possibilities are: a degree in Physics and Technology of Nuclear Reactors at the University of Birmingham, a degree in Chemical and Nuclear Engineering at the University of Leeds, a degree in Nuclear Science and Technology at the University of Liverpool, degrees in Nuclear Environmental Science and Technology and Nuclear Science and Technology at the University of Sheffield, a degree in Nuclear Medicine at the City University London, a degree in Nucear Energy at the University of Cambridge, and a distance learning degree in Nuclear Science and Technology offered by the Nuclear Technology Education Consortium.
At the Doctorate level the possibilities are at: the University of Liverpool (a PhD in Nuclear Physics), the University of Manchester (a PhD in Nuclear Engineering), and the University of Sheffield (PhD in Nuclear Engineering).
The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority has a number of training courses, among which are the Successful Nuclear Safety Case Production and the Radiological HAZAN Production Course.
In the nuclear research field the following institutions are involved: the Imperial College London (its Department of Physics, its Department of Mechanical Engineering and its Energy Futures Lab; the Lancaster University (its Engineering Department), the Nuclear Institute, the University of Birmingham (its Nuclear Physics Group), the University of Liverpool (its Department of Physics), the University of Manchester, the Dalton Nuclear Institute, and the Westlakes Scientific Consulting.
The most important associations involved in the nuclear education are the National Skills Academy and the Nuclear Industry Association.
NUCLEAR HUMAN RESOURCE
It has been several decades since there was a major nuclear construction programme in the UK and important specialist skills needed for building new nuclear plants have been lost in the generation gap, according to the report "'Building Britain’s nuclear future - will the UK construction industry deliver?", compiled by law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) and supported by the UK’s Nuclear Industry Association. The report says that the industry needs to invest not only to fill this gap, but also to ensure there are sufficient resources to withstand the poaching of UK skills by those economies that want to fill their skills gap quickly and are able to pay to do it.
Among the report’s key findings are:
- The UK has the civil engineering skills to deliver 70 percent of a nuclear plant, but vital specialist skills have been lost because of the generation gap since the UK’s last nuclear programme.
- There is a shortage of home grown “major programme management skills” in the UK, with foreign consortia now delivering the biggest projects.
- Regulators must not “move the goalposts” once the framework to construct the new power stations has been agreed.
- Contracts will have to spread risks between parties – both domestic and international – to prevent investors in nuclear new build from being deterred from participation.
There are plans or proposals to build 10 new nuclear power plants in the UK and the report notes that there is little or no reason for concern about the readiness of British civil engineering and construction. Furthermore, “(t)here will be time to learn from foreign expertise, and to develop skills which UK businesses can later export to other countries".
Cogent is the Sector Skills Council for chemicals, pharmaceuticals, nuclear, oil and gas, polymer and petroleum businesses. It has a key role in meeting the skills needs of emerging technologies.
Cogent – SSC regularly publishes reports on nuclear skills and the needs of the UK nuclear industry.