Memorandum submitted by the British Nuclear
This submission responds to the terms of
reference as issued by the Science and Technology Committee
TOR 1To evaluate the level of expenditure
on RD&D in non-carbon energy technologies, by UK government,
the Research Councils, the Carbon Trust and industry, and where
it is being directed.
1.1 RD&D Investment by Nuclear Utilities
via Government Levy
The HSE on behalf of the HSC administers an
Industry Management Committee (IMC) which is a coordinated Nuclear
Safety Research programme. This if funded by contributions (levy)
on generating companies with existing Nuclear Reactors. Approximately
£8 million was raised and spent in 2000-01 on this programme.
This covered safety related research which was commissioned across
the contributing utilities and universities. This funding has
been under severe pressure because the utilities have had to cut
back their cost base to meet the fall in income under NETA, for
their sales of electricity. As the Nuclear reactors are closed
sequentially, this fund will inevitably decline.
1.2 RD&D Investment by the UK Government
OECD Energy Technology StatisticsR&D
Database indicates a significant decline in investment from £500
million in the last 25-49 years to practically zero, in year 2000
monetary values. Hence, the investment. Predominantly at Harwell,
Winfrith etc laboratory sites on fission RD&D has been seriously
eroded. This has had an adverse impact on the research in universities,
careers in nuclear technology and the general nuclear experience
for the future. There has also been a deleterious impact on the
supply chain of many service companies over the years. The major
privatisation/reorganisation of UKAEA/AEAT has also resulted in
under investment in nuclear expertise and university funding.
1.3 RD&D Investment by UK Research Councils
The EPSRC Energy Sector Review in April 2001
shows that the investment in nuclear technology from all the UK
Research Councils lies well behind other energy forms and therefore
provides little support to industry and future fission energy
1.4 RD&D Investment by UK Nuclear Generators
The privatisation of Nuclear Electric and Scottish
Nuclear into British Energy, leaving Magnox stations to BNFL in
the mid 1990's resulted in a "no new build" policy.
With the cancellation of the PWR programme in Britain, following
completion of Sizewell B, the nuclear infrastructure and Industry
for future British build programme and export potential, took
a severe blow. With nuclear generators competing in a hostile
electricity market, the inevitable happened. There were consequential
reductions in existing staffing numbers, new intakes (graduates)
and also funding by the nuclear utilities in future nuclear systems.
We will leave British Energy and BNFL to make
their own comments on the changes to each company's focus which
moved more to liabilities management, waste and decommissioning,
rather than looking ahead to the next generation of reactor systems.
This had had a major adverse impact throughout the whole supply
chainindustry suppliers, university placements and the
future capability to support a future British and global nuclear
1.5 Summary and Conclusion
Government policies have resulted in a run down
of the nuclear industry in Great Britain and there is a need to
revitalise the future reactor RD7D programme to ensure Britain
regains its leading edge that it had in the 1960s-70s. This is
essential if nuclear technology is to play a vital role in the
non-carbon energy mix.
TOR 2TO IDENTIFY
We consider Nuclear Power to be an essential
ingredient in the future energy mix, along with renewable and
hydrogen based energy systems.
Without new build in Britain there will be a
gradual, yet serious decline, in major non carbon based electricity
production. This would mean a loss of 20-25% of the existing carbon-free
electricity generation. This will also affect the potential of
a "hydrogen economy" since it requires electricity for
its production process.
We believe that the current situation, where
there is no government funding to the nuclear generation sector,
has resulted in a serious decline in the future capability of
this technology in Britain. There is no incentive for industry
to invest in future nuclear systems unless there is a "new
build" policy to replace the existing nuclear stations. We
therefore believe that funding should be provided to reverse this
Unless there is a clearly defined future for
nuclear generation as an option, there is unlikely to be a pro-active
approach by industry suppliers and universities to invest resources
which extend beyond their short term business planning cycles.
Government should work closely with the industry
and universities to ensure that there are strategic plans and
adequate recourses to support the current nuclear generators'
needs of RD&D. In addition, government needs to help to expand
the skill base for the future replacement/new build programme.
TOR 3TO ASSESS
OF RD&D FOR
This has been partly covered earlier but to
re confirm our position that we believe the UK nuclear skills
base and RD&D infrastructure is now at its weakest point for
many years and threatens the capability of reopening the nuclear
option unless urgent measures are taken and government lead the
revival through clear policies and investment programmes.
A number of skills audits have been carried
out such as the HSE Nuclear Skills Audit and Nuclear and Radiological
skills and Study by the DTI and These provide a good insight into
the required future feed stock of human resources into this sector.
The BNES will continue to promote nuclear energy
as a valuable contributor to environmentally friendly electricity
production and a serious option for the future of mankind and
that careers in the sector are a vital contribution to society
and rewarding. The Young Generation Network is a vibrant group
seeking to promote the benefits of nuclear energy in schools and
universities. However, government leadership is an essential backcloth.
TOR 4TO ESTABLISH
ENERGY RD&D IS
There appears to be no coherent strategy from
Central Government to enable the nuclear option to be kept open.
It is crucial that better co-ordination between government departments
is achieved and that there is a clearly defined set of responsibilities
and resources made available to enable a cohesive business plan
to be produced and acted upon. This will require strong leadership
from the Government to make it happen.
TOR 5TO ESTABLISH
ENERGY RD&D AND
There is already much international collaboration
in the whole spectrum of operations and safety of nuclear power
plants. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the World Association
of Nuclear Operators and the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators
in the USA provide considerable transfer of best practice and
learning to promote improvements in safety and performance of
the 440 or so nuclear reactors in the world. Great Britain makes
a major input into this and is seen as a valuable contributor
Likewise there is much more collaboration between the nuclear
Needless to say, there should be global collaboration
on RD&D, as major generic projects to develop new technology
are often beyond the expertise or indeed the funding capability,
of individual countries.
There does not appear to be any current UK government
strategy for nuclear fission RD&D projects. Most collaboration
is done on a piece meal basis. Whereas there should be a solid
input from the UK expertise in order to develop international
win/win situations and added value.
TOR 6TO EXAMINE
RD&D OF PRIVATISATION,
The effect on energy RD&D as a result of
privatisation has been dramatic for the reasons quoted earlier.
It should be noted that AEA Technology indeed withdrew from all
nuclear RD&D to concentrate on non nuclear core business.
In addition industry and the academia has consolidated and declined
over the last 20 years through reorganisations of the industry
and privatisations, as well as under-funding in universities.
Liberalisation of the electricity market has
brought severe cost reduction measures into the nuclear generators
with the inevitable knock on effects of staff reductions and lack
of investments in order to achieve short term survival.
The UK nuclear generators operate under stringent
regulatory control and so they should. They have to fully fund
their total cost base (including regulatory costs) and also their
total impact on society (externalities). This is not so with other
fossil generators and results in unfair competition.
Mergers and acquisitions, vertical integration
and flexible plant has put extreme pressures on the nuclear generators
which were in many cases prevented from doing likewise because
of regulatory constraints and the five year delay in privatising
nuclear utilities after the fossil generators. There is very little
room for profitability in base load wholesale electricity markets
as the recent roubles with British Energy has shown. There is
a general view now in other countries that if you are to make
money in electricity, it will not come from generation but transmitting
and distributing it!
TOR 7TO MAKE
The US Department of Energy have recently proposed
an increase in funding for nuclear RD&D technologies to $46.5
million for 2003-04. The US Nuclear Waste Fund exceeds $200 million.
The UK Lags well behind other countries in the
investment on RD&D and this is well demonstrated in the R&D
data base of the OECD Energy Technology statistics. Japan (£1000
million), France (£500 million), Belgium (£75 million)
and Netherlands (£10 million) compared to UK of less than
The UK were amongst the world leaders in nuclear
technology and have now fallen well behind through lack of investment
in RD&D and the lack of a clear energy policy which includes
nuclear as a valuable environmentally friendly contributor. The
Science and Technology Committee have established a strong set
of Terms of Reference and the BNES has welcomed the opportunity
to respond with this submission. We hope that it provides the
Committee with useful information and helps them to advise the
Government on a recovery strategy for the British nuclear industry.
20 September 2002