Memorandum submitted by the Institution
of Nuclear Engineers
1. This response to the Reference addresses
items two, three, five and six of the Terms of Reference of the
inquiry team, namely:
(a) (Item two): To identify which technologies
are, or should be, receiving support, and how much investment
is directed at research, development and demonstration respectively.
(b) (Item three): To assess the skills base
and the state of RD&D for different technologies.
(c) (Item five): To establish the level of
and rationale for international collaboration in energy RD&D
and how the priorities are determined.
(d) (Item six): To examine the effect on
energy RD&D of privatisation, liberalisation, regulation and
changes in ownership in the sector.
2. In addressing the request for written
evidence, the Institution of Nuclear Engineers (INucE) has focused
on the nuclear energy sector, as this is the main thrust of the
3. The Institution of Nuclear Engineers
was founded to promote the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, to
advance the science and practice of nuclear engineering and to
act as a focal point for those engaged in the field. The Institution's
activities are organised by a Council, elected by its members,
and this Council in turn appoints committees to deal with the
various aspects of the Institutions work.
4. In common with other professional institutions,
it is more than a learned society; in conferring membership, it
endorses the high standards of education and training of its members
many of whom are also registered via the Institution for Chartered
status with the Engineering Council (UK). In maintaining these
standards the Institution is performing an important function
in the public interest. In so doing, it promotes the highest professional
and safety standards for the nuclear industry.
5. The Institution helps maintain the professional
competence of its members through many initiatives including publication
of a journal, The Nuclear Engineer, provision of a programme
of seminars and international conferences and supporting a programme
of Continuing Professional Development. In addition, the Institution
co-operates with other learned societies, institutions and universities
with allied interests in the field of nuclear engineering.
6. The Institution makes a corporate contribution
to the development of nuclear engineering as a discipline, through
its contributions to standard setting in the fields of education
and training and to the uses of nuclear medicine.
(Item two): To identify which technologies are,
or should be, receiving support, and how much investment is directed
at research, development and demonstration respectively.
7. Currently the only proven non-carbon
energy technology capable of meeting the UK government's emissions
targets is nuclear generation. Whilst renewables must be supported
and become part of a balanced energy mix, the difficulties with
security of supply without significant investment in stand- by
plant, would make claims for the installation of a largely renewable
supplied system appear aspirational rather than realistic. The
UK is currently on track to meet its Kyoto commitments due largely
to the emissions savings brought about by nuclear generation,
which accounts for almost a quarter of the UK electricity production.
On current predictions, without the development of newer, safer
and more cost effective nuclear generating facilities to replace
existing plant, the UK will fail to meet its long term environmental
commitments. The alternative would be a further "dash for
gas", which together with increased emissions could not be
met by UK gas suppliers and would instead, rely heavily on imports
from potentially politically unstable suppliers. Whilst effective
nuclear waste management remains a concern in the UK, a programme
of RD&D similar to that being pursued in the USA would significantly
strengthen the domestic nuclear case.
8. The US Department of Energy has recently
proposed an increase in funding for nuclear research technologies
to $46.5 million for fiscal 2003 ($12 million in 2002). The proposal
forms part of a total nuclear research and development budget
request of $71.5 million ($53 million in 2002). The US nuclear
waste fund is around $212 million. UK spending, in relative terms,
should be compared and considered in terms of the positive initiatives
being taken within the US.
(Item three): To assess the skill base and the
state of RD&D for different technologies.
9. The DTI Skills Foresight Study of the
Nuclear Sector is providing significant insight into the UK's
present and future skills requirements in energy, health and defence.
In addition, the HSE Nuclear Installations Inspectorate has undertaken
a second study covering nuclear education in British Universities.
10. The DTI skills study has made recommendations
with respect to:
(a) Co-ordinating and stimulating the development
of the workforce;
(b) Enhancing secondary and higher education
in core skills (N.B.these core skills apply to all areas
of engineering) and nuclear disciplines;
(c) The role of research councils in supporting
better nuclear science and technology R&D (note: EPSRC has
recently conducted a workshop to address applied nuclear research);
d. The industry working collectively to invest
in their work force and provide support for the Skills Councils.
These findings are consistent with the feedback
obtained from INucE members within the industry and academia.
11. The HSE-NII study concludes that the
UK nuclear education sector remains in a very fragile state and
recommends a recovery programme to ensure the future education
capability remains commensurate with the needs of industry. A
strong education capability is also commensurate with a thriving
RD&D programme that also supports industry.
12. It is noteworthy that the US has set
up an "Innovations in Nuclear Infrastructure and Education"
(INIE) programme with initial funding of $5.5 million. Elsewhere,
Sweden has recently created an academic chair in nuclear engineering
as the first step towards establishing an institution aimed at
revitalising interest in nuclear education and R&D.
(Item five): To establish the level of and rationale
for international collaboration in energy RD&D and how the
priorities are determined.
13. International Collaboration in nuclear
RD&D has been a key strategy of Governments over many years
driven by a issues ranging from security of energy supply (including
nuclear) to industrial export strategy. Consequential exchanges
and collaboration have developed.
14. More recently additional drivers towards
international collaboration in nuclear RD&D have included:
Improving the safety and performance
of existing nuclear facilities.
Developing nuclear systems (reactor
and fuel cycle), which are safer, more reliable have lower cost,
improved proliferation resistance, higher energy efficiency, provide
energy products (eg hydrogen), and secure long term energy supply.
Environmental management strategies.
International regulatory collaboration.
Preservation/transfer of knowledge
and experience in an ageing skills base.
Development of a new generation of
engineers and scientists with the necessary skills.
15. The recent Generation IV international
nuclear RD&D initiative by the US DOE represents a clear embodiment
of these aspects.
16. A further aspect of international RD&D
is the change in emphasis from "basic science" towards
"applied" as the nuclear industry has matured from a
basic technology to industrial application. This has led to a
"rationalisation" of national R&D programmes and
facilities including research reactors.
17. Industrial nuclear companies have been
consolidating against a background of a mature nuclear industry.
While much of this consolidation has been within national boundaries
there are also signs of the emergence of a key set of transnational
companies. This latter set will increasingly decide when and where
applied RD&D is carried out on a commercial basis. However
the investment climate for such companies has been very difficult
with the consequent decline in support for RD&D.
18. The rationale for international collaboration
in nuclear RD&D is clear and is a continuing development of
the rationale outlined in the "Background" section above.
However it is important that such a rationale is clearly expressed,
and given a focus (managerial and investment) at Government level
in order for the objectives to be realised and for all stakeholder
interests to be included. A "patchwork" approach will
not lead to blanket benefits nor to cost sharing and added value.
Of course it is difficult to provide such a focus at Government
level where the emphasis is on policy and strategy rather than
on the technical management of programmes. However such technical
programme management could be achieved through a new institute,
which had the support of Government, regulators, industry and
universities. This rationale will also need the support of an
international platform established by Government including agreements,
personnel and information exchanges, technology export/import
19. Nuclear RD&D, including international
collaboration, has dramatically declined both in range and extent,
particularly so following Government withdrawal form the research
field and introduction of privatisation in the nuclear generating
sector. This has resulted in an adverse effect on the UK's ability
to collaborate with Government sponsored laboratories in other
countries. (See also Paragraph 24).
20. Consideration of the level of international
collaboration in nuclear RD&D needs to consider both the type
of RD&D (from pure science to industrial investment) and financing
provision (investment amount, investment vehicle). Since the USA
is likely to be the main player in continuing nuclear RD&D
the UK's focus needs to aim particularly at involvement in USA
21. While the emphasis will be less on basic
science some continuing international collaboration in this area
is essential (eg radiological protection, material properties,
22. The greater emphasis for RD&D needs
to be on maximizing and building on our experience to meet the
goals for future nuclear systems outlined above. Since this will
largely be in the area of generic technology development significant
levels of international collaboration supported by Government
investment will be required.
23. The demonstration phase of nuclear systems
is a particularly costly. These will be managed in a specific
regulated environment. Such demonstrations should largely be the
preserve of industry but may require Government "kick-start"
involvement. The timing of such demonstrations is some way off
so current considerations can be devoted to establishment of future
strategy. A capability for participating in international demonstration
projects should be assured by appropriate strategy development
and agreements now.
(Item 6): To examine the effect on energy RD&D
of privatisation, liberalisation, regulation and changes in ownership
in the sector.
24. The impact on energy R&D as a result
of "privatisation" has in general been devastating as
a result of the major ex-CEGB R&D establishments being totally
eradicated, (as in the case of Marchwood and Leatherhead), or
seriously depleted (as in the case of Berkeley). Post privatisation,
few external R&D contracts were placed mainly as a result
of institutions (utilities) driving for profits, a situation exacerbated
more recently following reductions in the selling price of generated
electricity. However there are signs of recovery with BNFL assuming
responsibility for the management of Berkeley, establishing a
state-of-the art technology centre and also setting up "Centres
of Excellence" at selected Universities. It should also be
noted that "privatisation" of the major UK nuclear R&D
organisation namely the UKAEA into a "rump UKAEA" and
a privatised AEA Technology (AEAT) resulted in the cessation of
all nuclear R&D work at AEAT, which now concentrates on non-nuclear
core businesses including rail network safety.
25. One aspect of "liberalisation"
may include the opportunities for R&D work provided by European
Commission funding through the EURATOM framework. This funding
is keeping many R&D companies financially viable.
26. With respect to regulation, the necessity
for it to ensure that free market forces do not run out of control
is recognised. However, is the playing field level, especially
with respect to nuclear energy? Some may argue not and suggest
that regulation has had little effect other than to squeeze generating
profits and hence reduce R&D budgets.
27. It is well recognised that nuclear power
does not add significantly to CO2 emissions and electricity
derived from this sector supplies about 25% of the UK's electricity.
Therefore, in order to maintain support for the UK Government's
Kyoto commitments, nuclear energy must be recognised as a viable
future contributor to our energy needs. The Government's Energy
Review supports this conclusion.
28. The development and application of nuclear
engineering, science and technology within the UK has resulted
in a long-term liability that will continue well into the foreseeable
future. The UK must therefore maintain and nurture an organic
capability to deal with emerging technologies for build, operation
and disposal in all nuclear sectors.
29. While re-creation of the UKAEA in its
former self may not be feasible, consideration should be given
to setting up a Centre of Excellence in nuclear education and
RD&D. Some of the potential satellites for such a Centre already
exist (Universities of Manchester and Leeds for example) as a
result of BNFL initiatives, but they do not cover all disciplines.
30. If the UK is to retain an organic capability,
consideration should be given to build of a new research reactor
either singly (or jointly as an international venture) that would
meet our RD&D requirements. A low risk strategy would be to
base such a facility on proven design and demonstration. An example
is the US General Atomics 14 MW TRIGA reactor, which has been
used successfully by Romania for support of its CANDU programme.
A similar project is presently in an advanced state of planning
in Thailand. Such facilities could be built for significantly
less cost than recently constructed reactors Germany and Australia.
31. Education and training provide the seed
bed from which RD&D grows and flourishes. The findings and
recommendations from the HSE-NII study on Nuclear Education in
British Universities and the DTI Skills Foresight Study of the
Nuclear Sector should therefore be noted.
25 September 2002