UK prepares for nuclear new build

10 November 2011

A new Nuclear Research Centre (NRC) - a joint venture between the University of Bristol and the University of Oxford - has officially been opened to help provide a skilled workforce for the UK's nuclear industry. Separately, NuGen has been given approval to start checking the suitability of land in Cumbria for building a new nuclear power plant.


The universities said that the new centre will be of "national and international importance in nuclear research" and "aims to provide leading edge and innovative research to support the design and safe operation of current and future generations of nuclear systems." The NRC will focus on work for both fundamental research and for allowing emergent topics to be addressed, as well as developing new skills and providing high-quality graduates and post-doctoral researchers. It will build on existing partnerships with EDF Energy, Rolls-Royce and AWE.


"With a community of over 100 world-class people in nuclear research, the new centre will ensure the continuity of the nuclear community and safeguard expert knowledge," said David Smith, director of NRC Bristol and professor of engineering materials at the University of Bristol. He added, "The centre will also provide leading edge research to support the nuclear business community."


Chris Grovenor, director of NRC Oxford and professor of materials at the University of Oxford, commented, "We aspire to build on the complementary expertise in the two universities, and the breadth of our activities in nuclear science, engineering and social science, to make the NRC a serious contributor to assuring a nuclear future for the UK."


Speaking at the 8 November launch event, energy minister Charles Hendry said: "This centre will ensure that the UK remains the vanguard in deploying the next generation of new nuclear power stations across Europe and ensures that the UK and the local economy can derive maximum benefit from these opportunities."


He noted, "There is great potential in the growth of the UK nuclear industry. But we are all very aware that 70% of the current UK nuclear workforce is set to retire by 2025 and realise the challenges and skills gaps that this will bring to an industry set to grow. These are highly skilled jobs and research centres like this one are key to ensuring that we can meet the quality and capacity of skills that industry will need to deliver such an ambitious program."


Hendry said, "We must ensure that the UK has the appropriately skilled workforce to deliver a strong nuclear industry that is safe, professional and cost effective. Centres like this one with strong relationships with industry, the regulators and the local communities will help ensure that we can do this."


According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, "Based on recent analysis it is estimated there will be up to 30,000 new jobs created by new nuclear (which includes jobs in the supply chain and construction sectors, together with numbers needed for operation) by 2025. It is envisaged that at its peak each power plant including twin reactors will create up to 5000 construction jobs."


Site investigation works


NuGeneration's plans to construct a new nuclear power plant alongside the Sellafield site in Cumbria moved a step closer after the local council gave the go-ahead for site characterization works to begin.


Copeland Borough Council has approved a preliminary phase of temporary site investigation and characterization works on the land NuGen has an option to buy from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority for some £70 million ($112 million) for the proposed plant.


Alfio Vidal, chief nuclear director of NuGen, said, "We will use these investigations to determine which part of the land in our option is best-suited for the construction of a nuclear power station."


The temporary site investigation and characterisation works are expected to be completed during 2013. NuGen - a joint venture between Iberdrola and GdF-Suez - intends to prepare detailed plans for developing the site, which will be submitted for consideration by the relevant planning authorities with the aim of a final investment decision being taken around 2015. The plant could be commissioned around 2023.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News