House of COMMONS
MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
INNOVATION, UNIVERSITIES, SCIENCE AND SKILLS COMMITTEE
DR IAN HUDSON, MR ALEX WALSH, MS FIONA WARE and MR BILL BRYCE
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
Taken before the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee
Mr Phil Willis, in the Chair
Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods
Mr Tim Boswell
Mr Ian Cawsey
Dr Ian Gibson
Dr Brian Iddon
Dr Desmond Turner
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Dr Ian Hudson, Engineering, Technology & Skills Director, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority; Mr Alex Walsh, Head of Civil Nuclear Programmes, BAE Systems; Ms Fiona Ware, Vice President Operational Excellence and Transformation, AMEC's Nuclear Business; and Mr Bill Bryce, Chair, New Build Working Group, Nuclear Industry Association, gave evidence.
I welcome our first group of witnesses to this evidence session on nuclear
engineering inquiry as part of our major inquiry into engineering. Dr Ian Hudson, Engineering, Technology &
Skills Director, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority; Fiona Ware, Vice President
Operational Excellence and Transformation at AMEC's Nuclear Business; Alex
Walsh, the Head of Civil Nuclear Programmes at BAE Systems, and, last but by no
means least, Bill Bryce, the Chair of the New Build Working Group at the
Nuclear Industry Association. Dr Hudson,
perhaps I could start with you. When we heard
from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers they said that "the
Dr Hudson: For clarity, the principle interest of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is in decommissioning and clean-up. Within the Energy Act we do not have any formal role in terms of new build. If you take the decommissioning mission and the clean-up mission, we can see some shortages in certain areas, and those areas tend to be areas where we are competing with other industries. In terms of attracting other engineers into the industry and having enough people to do the job, from a decommissioning perspective we do not see any real major shortages right now. We have, however, introduced skills, plans and programmes for the sites that we look after, so we understand the medium to longer term, so that from our perspective we understand the problem well enough that we can take action now.
Q93 Chairman: Are you not hugely complacent? We are talking about a level of decommissioning which this country has never seen before, with virtually all our nuclear power stations over the next ten years being part of that process. At the same time, government is looking at encouraging new build, and perhaps four or even ten nuclear power stations. Are you confident that all those engineers are out there?
Dr Hudson: I do not think we are
complacent: I think that would be unreasonable. Three years ago, when we first
started with the estate, we asked all our site licence companies to put in
place a proper skills strategy which understood the need. For the first time, across all those sites,
that strategy is in place. NDA itself is
investing over a period of five years around £40 million. Through leveraging and partnering we have
doubled that amount. There is an ongoing
investment through the site licence companies of around £13.5 million per year,
which equates to about £800 per person, and that is probably double the
Q94 Chairman: From the rest of the panel, could I have a quick comment on my initial question.
Mr Walsh: I think there is a job of work to be done in developing the bid but it does not mean that it is not addressable. I think that actions are already in place. We are heavily recruiting at the moment and we are heavily training. There are certain contractions happening in other areas of the aerospace industry, for instance, where there are very good structural welding engineers, aeronautical engineers, who have skills which are transferable with a degree of cross-skilling. It is addressable.
Q95 Chairman: It is doable.
Mr Walsh: Yes.
Q96 Chairman: Fiona, is it doable?
Ms Ware: Yes, I think so. We now have long-term visibility for the plans for a number of the programmes: the decommissioning programmes, the new build programme. Having that long-term visibility enables AMEC and other parts of the supply chain to plan to respond to that. We are doing an awful lot of recruitment. We are working with universities and working with schools, trying to encourage people into science and engineering, to make sure that we have the right resources available when we need them.
Mr Boswell: It is obvious there is a big lump of work to do, both in terms of decommissioning and commissioning new build. These are not identical skills but they are related. Two constraints occur to me. One is the time scale. Alex, you said, you have been at this for three years. These things do not happen immediately. Can we be sure that the training, even if it is now being embarked on, will be delivered in time for this additional work? Second, it is not only the training but also the capacity to train. Is that too being addressed?
Q97 Chairman: Bill, could I bring you in on that, please?
Mr Bryce: If I could take you back to
your initial question: Is the
Q98 Mr Boswell: And pinching their skilled people if required.
Mr Bryce: If we possibly can, yes - or
maybe not pinching but interchanging, because there is the opportunity to put
people from the UK into some of these other countries with the nuclear vendors
or with the utilities. My own company,
Doosan Babcock, is owned by Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction of
Q99 Chairman: When we were down at a nuclear power station yesterday, we were being told very, very strongly that what were required were engineers - electrical/mechanical/civil engineers - in order to do the major construction, fitting out and running of these major plants. But this comes at a time when there is huge pressure form other sectors of the engineering community. I do not have a clear picture yet as to where all these people are going to come from. We are being told as a committee that there is a huge shortage of engineers now.
Mr Bryce: Maybe not huge, but there is a shortage. There are more severe shortages in some areas than in others. When you talk of engineering, I would like to be clear that we need to talk about the wide spectrum, from the trade skills through to the PhD levels. We require all of these people. We require them in different numbers and we require them at different times. For new build, we do not require a large number of nuclear design engineers because the new power stations are going to be internationally designed - for example, one of the nuclear vendors says that by the time we get around to building the first one in the UK, it will be the ninth or tenth that they will have built worldwide - but we do need large numbers of general mechanical and electrical and project management people. These are the people who are going to build the things and commission the things. Where are they going to come from? They have all drifted into other industries over the years, and when they see a forward market and career opportunities, they can be attracted back.
Q100 Mr Boswell: Their skills are transferable probably.
Mr Bryce: Many of them are transferable, yes.
Q101 Chairman: You think these people already exist.
Mr Bryce: Some of them do. We need more.
Q102 Chairman: With the greatest of respect, though, that is not the information that seems to be coming in terms of the workforce survey studies. Certainly nuclear engineering, to start with, has an age profile which suggests that a significant number of people are going to retire in the next ten years, and that profile seems to be in every branch of engineering. Are these people going to take pills and become younger?
Mr Bryce: You are correct, and that is why I say that in some areas there are shortages. We need to be taking steps to change that.
I could turn to you, Fiona. In terms of
coming back to the nuclear industry, obviously it is an exciting time, if we
are to believe that all is going to come to pass, both in terms of civil and in
terms of military capacity. What do you
think are the largest challenges for the
Ms Ware: It will be dealing with the growth and regenerating an interest in the industry, because it has been a static industry or an industry in decline. I think the industry is now responding. Visibility, again, and commitment to the Government for the sustainability of some of these longer-term programmes makes it a more exciting industry, and I think that makes it more attractive to bring more people into the industry. I do not think that decommissioning is seen as particularly exciting to a large number of the population; whereas new build is more exciting, is more attractive to bring people into the industry. One of our challenges will be to attract people into the industry.
Q104 Chairman: Dr Hudson, there seems to be a view that, because of a lack of commitment to new nuclear build over the last 15 or 20 years, we have lost that attractiveness, that capacity. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the nuclear industry as you see them at the moment?
Dr Hudson: There are a couple of
strengths. To build on something Fiona
said: if you look at the decommissioning industry, I would say that about five
years ago the interest was not particularly great. When the NDA came on the scene you could see
some things change. For instance, for the
Masters degree in Decommissioning Engineering at
Q105 Chairman: Is it the same for BAE Systems? Would you echo that?
Mr Walsh: It is not necessarily the new
build which has made the industry unattractive.
I went to university in 1979.
That was just after
Q106 Chairman: Slightly, yes.
Mr Walsh: I remember the nuclear engineers were the pariahs of the college. The number of youngsters who wanted to go into nuclear engineering fell off. The nuclear engineering degrees shut down before the end of the new build with Sizewell B. There was a real public swing which said that this was not an industry that you would want to get into if you were a youngster, so I do not blame the stopping of new build for the youngsters not coming in. I think we have to show that it is an attractive industry. It is a very green industry. That is the type of thing which will appeal to the youngsters and start to attract them into the industry.
Q107 Dr Gibson: I do not have a picture of how many people you think you might need to do the work that the Government are giving you. Are we talking about thousands of people? Hundreds? Somebody must have done the sums, surely. There must be some strategy, at least, somewhere.
Mr Walsh: In Sizewell B during the construction, at the peak there were about 3,000, but most of those were general engineers, civil contractors and the like, but then you would have the supply chain as well that supports that, which would probably multiply it out - I do not know, but I would guess - to 20,000.
Q108 Dr Gibson: Come on, you guys should know. You are in charge of the whole business, are you not? Who knows?
Dr Hudson: I can offer a view from a decommissioning perspective.
Q109 Dr Gibson: A view? I want the facts.
Dr Hudson: I can give you some information. On the back of the skill strategy that we have, we have about 20,000 people across all our site licence companies. Around 25% of those are engineering graduates and then 48% of those would be technical. If you map that out over the next 15-20 years, you can see a steady decline to about 2015 from our mission, then you see quite a marked reduction from 2015, and then you see another marked reduction from 2020. From an NDA perspective across those site licence companies, we can map those figures out, and we can map the technical competencies across that. Those are facts and those are based on the lifetime plans. Invisible within those plans are the various scenarios that may come out of government policy, and the decommissioning of subsequent British Energy reactors and MoD decommissioning as well. Those are not in our plans.
Q110 Dr Gibson: Are you recruiting? Are nuclear engineers being recruited?
Dr Hudson: We are recruiting.
Q111 Dr Gibson: Where are the adverts? In The Sun, in the Mirror?
Dr Hudson: We are recruiting. We take about 170 graduates a year. The strategy we have taken with the nuclear
graduate scheme is not to be advertising in places like the Times or the
Telegraph but to work with the career services in universities and to
get the message out through that. We had
an event about two weeks ago, where there were 170 people from the range of
universities across the
Q112 Dr Gibson: Are you confident that you are going to get home-grown students? Are you going to get your workforce from people from the universities and other places, or are you having to do like the football teams do and go abroad to get three-quarters of the team?
Dr Hudson: From the clean-up perspective, we have attracted enough people from the home-grown talent. You can see that in the graduate schemes. We do get enough people like that. We also get the attraction of international people as well. If you take the recent contract award at Sellafield, it is only a small number - you are talking about a number of 20 or so in terms of the senior management team - but through that contract they bring people who are called enhancers, who come in for periods of up to two years to work with the local population, transfer some of those skills, and then go off, leaving the skills behind. It is always an issue in terms of getting local home-grown talent. In decommissioning it is different: we do not have the same constraints as the military perspective. I do not know if any of my colleagues can offer a view about that, but from a decommissioning perspective we do okay.
Mr Bryce: I can quantify it a bit. Excluding the military side, which Alex may
be able to enlarge on, there are currently about 40,000 people in the
Q113 Dr Gibson: Would you put your salary on the fact that you are going to get these? Do you think the educational systems and so on are up for it?
Mr Bryce: No, we are going to have to compete for many of these jobs.
Q114 Mr Boswell: Internationally?
Mr Bryce: Internationally, yes, for a
lot of the manufacturing work. For the
site installation work, we would expect
Q115 Dr Gibson: Do you think people from abroad are just more skilled than our people at the minute?
Mr Bryce: No, I do not think so. We have been importing quite a number of
Q116 Chairman: In terms of the very top skills, the sort of PhD-level nuclear scientists and nuclear engineers that we are going to need on a whole range of different projects, niche people, where are we going to get those from? They are not coming from our universities at the moment?
Mr Bryce: Not at the moment, but I think in a few years time they are going to come.
Q117 Chairman: Dr Gibson's question is really quite specific. You seem to be saying that there is a market out there. Like Manchester United or Chelsea or Dundee United will simply go and get the best players - it is just an in joke -----
Mr Bryce: I hope we are going to be more successful than Dundee United!
Q118 Chairman: What is industry doing to make sure that UK plc has these people? Or is it just down to the university system?
Mr Bryce: No, I think the industry is importing some of these people. They are working overseas, because this is an international market.
Chairman: I have got that point, but
what are we doing to get indigenous,
Q119 Dr Gibson: Are you paying their PhD studentships for them? Are you paying off their student debts?
Mr Bryce: Are we, as my company?
Q120 Dr Gibson: Yes.
Mr Bryce: I do not think we are.
Mr Walsh: We are not paying off their student debt; we are paying good wages to graduates coming in. During the last year we have recruited five graduates specifically into the nuclear area and we have put in for a nuclear engineering training.
Q121 Chairman: I am talking now not about graduates. I am talking about post-docs.
Mr Walsh: We have taken one in.
Q122 Chairman: One.
Mr Walsh: Our first PhD student this
year into the nuclear area. We have
taken in three people with a Masters degree.
They are coming through things like
Q123 Dr Gibson: Are you excited by having four new people?
Mr Walsh: Yes, I am. In total, the number of graduates that we have taken on this year is 85. We have taken on 165 apprentices. We have just been out and started recruiting A-level students, to bring them in. If we get our apprentices, we run a high potential apprentice scheme for those top level apprentices we take on and we push through as fast as possible.
Q124 Dr Gibson: There are too many ifs in your answer. You are not sure.
Mr Walsh: I am sure. We do put people through university degrees.
Q125 Dr Gibson: Fiona, you are champing at the bit there. Tell me about Gen-IV. What is happening?
Ms Ware: I will, but perhaps I could
go back to what you asked before. AMEC
has a long heritage of looking after some of these skills and capabilities from
when we built the last fleet of stations.
We have put money into the PNTR MSc at
Q126 Dr Gibson: What has happened with Generation IV? How much does this industry put in, how much do the Government put in? Do you have to buy your way to the table?
Ms Ware: The Government were due to put in £5 million, but that funding was cancelled last year, which was a disappointment.
Q127 Dr Gibson: That is bad news. How are you going to substitute for that? Are you going to put the money in yourselves? You are going to be a rich industry - or you are a rich industry.
Ms Ware: The difficulty is the long-term nature of it. We ourselves are part of the supply chain but we are not a utility. We do not have the benefit of saying, "We'll invest in future generation reactors because we will get the benefit because it will be our design later." We have taken rather an altruistic view, perhaps, to say that we will do what we can to participate in the programmes because we know that is how we would keep those high level skills alive. It has been very difficult.
Q128 Dr Gibson: But you are not going to get a Christmas card or an invite to the table to talk about these things unless you are paying your whack, basically.
Ms Ware: Yes, and I think we are
disadvantaged when you look at other European countries. If you look at
Q129 Dr Gibson: What other international programmes are we participating in or should we participate in if we want to get to the top table and get new schemes going and education, your PhD students, and double your numbers from four to eight, for example? You are going to have to get into these international programmes.
Ms Ware: The Government, I believe, are signed up to GNEP. There are no programmes of work yet that have come out of that. We would ask for continued support to that. The Government signed up to Gen-IV and then the funding was not forthcoming, so if we know that -----
Q130 Dr Gibson: Who should foot that bill? Should the Government restore it or should you have some kind of collaboration?
Ms Ware: I would like to see the Government restore that funding.
Q131 Dr Gibson: Of course you would. At the same time, the Government are not going to by the sound of it, are they?
Ms Ware: I do not know. We would like to think so.
Q132 Dr Gibson: Does anybody know? You must know, Bill. You are the boss.
Mr Bryce: Before I answer your
question, the thing that is going to set the industry in the
Q133 Chairman: Can you concentrate on the question that was asked.
Mr Bryce: Coming back to the question: with that basis, if we can get ourselves into a sound clean-up and new build programme, people will be attracted into the industry and you will see the numbers increasing quite dramatically.
Q134 Dr Gibson: That is what you are saying.
Mr Bryce: But I think Government are going to have to prime the pumps on these more advanced research programmes. Industry is not going to put its money in at this stage in substantial amounts because it is a long time before payback will be achieved. There are several projects. ITER is one. Gen-IV is another. Industry is somewhat reticent to get involved there because the payback is looking very, very doubtful.
Q135 Dr Gibson: In the long term you are going to need that research, because nuclear plants and styles and so on and the operation change.
Mr Bryce: That is right. That is why I say: get ourselves established with new build of Generation-III and the rest will spin out of that.
Dr Gibson: Good luck.
Q136 Dr Iddon: Is everybody on the panel agreed that the skills required for decommissioning are roughly the same as those required for new build? In other words, if we train people for decommissioning, can we roll them over into new build?
Mr Bryce: There is a lot of new build going on to enable decommissioning to happen. There are several new facilities being built in Sellafield - and Ian can say more about these - and, therefore, these skills can roll over. In fact, they are a bit more critical because the work that is going on in decommissioning is an active plant, a radiologically active plant. There the nuclear disciplines have to be so much more severe because you are dealing with the radioactive conditions. Therefore, all the very stringent nuclear procedures are being learned and practised today in the clean-up process and these will spin over.
Q137 Dr Iddon: Perhaps I ought to turn to Ian. Do you see the NDA's role as partly to enable this roll over from decommissioning to new build? Do you think you have a role to train people through your decommissioning work, so that when new build ramps up we have sufficient skills available?
Dr Hudson: I think that is an interesting question. From an NDA perspective, let me try to answer that in two parts. The first thing is that NDA can only invest to support the clean-up mission in the way set out in the Energy Act, so our investment is around supporting the clean-up mission. We are investing quite heavily, and we can talk about that in a minute. There is a recognition, though, that some of those skills are transferable, and it has happened in the industry. Historically, if you look at the NDA, for instance, we have people who built reactors who are now pulling reactors down. We are focusing on transferable skills which are with the nuclear industry, so when we move people from operations into decommissioning we can get that flexibility of workers, so we are building that into our strategy. But it has to be dead clear, from our perspective, that we do not have a role in respect of new build. We are not allowed to do that.
Iddon: In their submission BAE has suggested that the
Ms Ware: In terms of decommissioning, as I said before, we now have visibility of the lifetime plans. Seeing that there are long-term programmes and that there is funding available is enough to encourage the supply chain to respond and to grow the capability. For new build, I think it is government support. The industry suffered during the last period of new build, because we built Sizewell, and there was an expectation that that would be a programme of reactors, and it was only one. A lot of companies prepared themselves and geared up to do that and then the opportunity disappeared. What is required really is a commitment to a programme and the supply chain will respond accordingly.
Q139 Dr Iddon: AMEC have suggested that there should be a stronger interface between the civil and military activities in this area. Security is the obvious barrier, but what other barriers are there? Is the main one security or are there other barriers preventing an interface between civil and military activities?
Ms Ware: Probably there will be commercial reasons. As AMEC, we are part of the supply chain, so we provide resources into all of the sectors, into reactor operations, into clean-up, and into Rolls Royce and AWE. We see there is transferability of skills and we can help in terms of transferring best practice from one section of the industry to the other. From an AMEC perspective, I can comment that skills are transferable. How the sectors work together is probably more a matter for people in the team.
Q140 Dr Iddon: What do the rest of the panel think about this interface. Is it easy to transfer from one sector to another?
Mr Walsh: BAE Systems is heavily
involved in the construction of nuclear submarines. That is what we do. There are limitations as to how we can employ
foreign nationals on those projects because of the security implications. I personally have worked in the defence
industry and in the civil nuclear construction industry and at Sizewell B. Half of the Sizewell B nuclear
commissioning team came from
Dr Hudson: When you think about skills, once you can get over the security implications from a military perspective, the people are transferable very applicably, as well explained by Alex. Skills are also developed through the use of certain facilities. There are some more subtle issues, in terms of carrying out military programmes and civil programmes in the same building. Whilst it would be nice to get complementary facilities where you can build up some of those skills, you have to think a bit more carefully about how you make those facilities available and use them across the different parts of the industry. It is just that point I was interested in making.
Iddon: Nobody has mentioned
Dr Hudson: I have just a bit of
anecdotal information. The French have
some good programmes in terms of skills.
Q142 Mr Boswell: I am interested in the relationship between government on the one hand, academia and industry, and whether these are all tuning in together. In AMEC's evidence you refer to "the complexity and number of the public sector ... training initiatives where there is increasing overlap between the remits of the various bodies, and between academia and industry." Could you say rather more precisely what those problems are, and perhaps you could give us some examples?
Ms Ware: When I first got involved with some of these bodies I found it extremely confusing in terms of the remit of the sector skills councils and the overlap between the sector skills councils.
Q143 Mr Boswell: Are there about six in this area, if you tot them all up?
Ms Ware: There is Cogent and the ECITB and the CITB. There is a number and it is quite confusing. We get approached as part of the supply chain by a number of these because AMEC works across a number of sectors. One of the issues is that a lot of the skills are not sector specific, so it is quite confusing. Also, the way that they work is different. Some operate under levies and others are under voluntary contributions.
Q144 Mr Boswell: Do you have the impression that in terms of their influence as sector skills councils they get their act together and unify their offer, or are you always having to negotiate between them in order to fit into their programmes?
Ms Ware: I sit on the Cogent Nuclear
Employers Steering Group and that was a way of trying to say that we want the
sector skills councils to be more joined up, because they are not, and they do
offer different types of training. In
the nuclear industry, we have the creation of the
Q145 Mr Boswell: To pursue that - and it may be more relevant to another inquiry we are carrying out - at least the rubric is that sector skills councils are industry-led.
Ms Ware: Yes.
Q146 Mr Boswell: Does anyone else want to comment on that sort of perception of SSCs?
Dr Hudson: When I came to the NDA about
three years ago, there seemed to be quite a confusing picture around Cogent
and the footprint that Cogent had. There
was a change in CEO and the regime in Cogent.
We sat down and spent quite a bit of time working with them to try to
understand what our needs were and what they were trying to achieve. I would say we have worked pretty well with
them in respect of helping create the
Mr Bryce: Yes, there should be much more integration. There is a little bit of competition for funds but the different boards, the ECITB, the NSAN, et cetera, are willing to talk with one another. In fact, the NIA is trying to progress that so that we get everybody singing from the same hymn sheet, because they are complementary.
Mr Walsh: The ECITB we use a lot, because of the apprentice training schemes that we run, so they are very important to us. We engaged with Cogent a few years ago and very much the focus of Cogent has been driven by the focus of the industry over the last few years on nuclear decommissioning. That now needs to start swinging a bit more to what is going to be the nuclear new build as well, but that is only natural at this stage of the game, when there are no further orders and we have only just started to see the commitments going forward.
Q147 Mr Boswell: Who is the appropriate body then to rationalise these initiatives? We have identified that there is a bit of confusion. Who is going to blow the whistle on this?
Mr Bryce: That is a difficult question. Cogent is in a position to do this. The NIA has been asked if it could do this but it is quite a big task. The NIA is limited by its funds which come from a subscription from the members. If the members wanted to do this, we would be willing to do it but there would need to be a bit more money put in.
Q148 Mr Boswell: Is that a general view?
Ms Ware: I think it is wider than that because it covers a number of sectors. I think there was a recommendation in the Leitch report that the number of bodies needs to be rationalised. I do not have a short answer as to how we might do that because it goes across a number of industries in a number of sectors, so it is difficult to say one organisation would take that responsibility.
Q149 Mr Boswell: Perhaps I could stay with you and ask, concerning the proposed UK National Nuclear Lab, why you think there will be unfair competition between the academic world and industry.
Ms Ware: The point we are trying to make is that we need to make sure there is not unfair competition.
Q150 Mr Boswell: There does not have to be but there might be.
Ms Ware: Yes. The remit of the National Lab needs to be clear. I think the lab will have a remit to protect and nurture skills, and I think it needs to be very clear that industry also has a role to play and a lot of those skills belong within the supply chain and within industry where they are deployed on real jobs. Whilst we support the need for a national nuclear laboratory and some co‑ordination in terms of some of the research in the programmes because the UK is fragmented, it needs to be clear that this is not just about creating programmes that would sit within academia or within the National Lab but it is about involving and engaging industry to make sure that the skills are transferred into industry.
Q151 Mr Boswell: I notice you nodding, Ian. Is that the view across the panel, that that is the right kind of way to approach this issue?
Dr Hudson: I think so, because you can maintain skills through initiatives such as the National Nuclear Lab but it is quite important that you maintain skills throughout the supply chain as well. You get different approaches. You get a slightly more commercial, innovative approach linked into the supply chain; you are able to take a slightly longer-term view through things like the National Nuclear Lab. I think the National Nuclear Lab needs to have its role linked across the supply chain as well as the academic establishment and operate around that agenda. A lot of the key skills in the National Nuclear Lab were mostly focused around the access to facilities, which are large capital facilities that carry out active work that industry does not tend to have access to because of the huge capital outlay. Making those facilities available into the broader supply chain helps build those skills.
Q152 Mr Boswell: That will be available to anybody, even if they are a comparatively minor subcontractor who could use the large facilities.
Dr Hudson: The aspiration from NDA's perspective is that you give access to the broader supply chain and into the universities. That is the aspiration.
Q153 Mr Boswell: AMEC has called for a demarcation between the application of technology in industry on the one hand and pure research taking place in universities and the National Nuclear Lab on the other. I take it that is, as it were, a management view which is not necessarily uncongenial to the other members of the panel. If we are going to do that, how are you going to bridge the gap? If you are making a conscious separation of mission in that area, how do you integrate the missions as part of the national effort to get nuclear decommissioning and new fleet build at the same time? How do you tune that?
Ms Ware: I think it comes back to being clear about the remit of the National Lab, if some of the programmes are going to be going through there. It is making sure that that industry is involved and it is not in competition with academia. Ultimately the skills need to come through from academia and they need to reside inside the National Nuclear Lab, where their needs will be nurtured if there is not a commercially acceptable way of doing that. If it is commercially viable to do it, then the supply chain is well able to do that itself. I think the role of the lab is to protect some of the skills which are critical. Currently a lot of the commercial programmes do have short term requirements as well as long term, and some of the short-term programmes perhaps do not need those skills. There is a requirement to maintain those, therefore, but I think it is just making sure that with some of the research programmes industry gets access to participate, that the skills transfer comes from academia out into industry and that they do not retain them in academia because there is a need to transfer to industry.
Q154 Mr Boswell: The point at which, as it were, the flag drops is with the National Nuclear Lab. Or, rather, it requires the active involvement of the industry as well as the academic world.
Ms Ware: Yes. Absolutely. There needs to be a partnership.
Q155 Mr Boswell: You are nodding, Ian.
Dr Hudson: Absolutely. We have been involved with BERR to support the creation of the National Lab. We see it as very strategically important to us to deliver our mission. Making those facilities available on a national and international perspective is very important.
Chairman: On that positive note, I turn on to Ian Cawsey.
Q156 Mr Cawsey: Thank you, Chairman. Earlier in the session there was a little bit of discussion about the role of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. As you said, it does what it says on the tin, and that is what the Energy Act allows you to do. But of course these things can change, and in a period of new commissioning it might be an appropriate time to change. Would you like to see the scope of the authority broadened? What would be the rationale behind such a move?
Dr Hudson: It is an interesting question and I do not feel particularly qualified to offer a view. I think it is a government decision, so from an NDA position it is not something I would like to speculate on.
Q157 Mr Cawsey: You do not have a personal view on whether it would be helpful?
Dr Hudson: I do not believe I can offer a personal view, sat here on behalf of NDA.
Q158 Mr Cawsey: Does anybody else want to say whether he should be expanded?
Ms Ware: I think that some co‑ordination is required. With the fragmentation of BNFL - and the NDA came in to oversee that - the industry itself has fragmented, so in terms of new build there needs to be some kind of co‑ordination, whether that would go to the NDA or an alternative body.
Dr Hudson: I could offer a view into
it. Our skill strategy is to partner
with people. For instance, in creating
Chairman: You did have a view after all.
Q159 Mr Cawsey: It took Fiona to wheedle the answer out of him.
Dr Hudson: That was not a view.
Q160 How does the authority encourage companies to ramp up the skills base?
Dr Hudson: We have taken a number of
things. Skills are important to us, as
set out in the Energy Act. It is also
important in terms of offering value for money to the taxpayer because it
improves the performance. The first
thing we have done is to take a strong leadership role. We have set requirements
on the site licence companies to develop these skill strategies. They are incentivised to do an effective job
on skills, so they gain profit if they do a good job and they lose profit if
they do a poor job. We have done that
over the last three years to drive that.
When we invest in infrastructure - and we have done, for instance, at
the high end of skills, such as the PhDs and Masters area - we have tried to do
that in partnership with other people.
For instance, in partnership with
Q161 Mr Cawsey: You are funding research and new facilities, and the example has been given to us of the Dalton Cumbria Facility. What involvement is there between the authority and industry?
Dr Hudson: Through the site licence
companies we invest around £100 million a year.
Of the order of £50 million of that goes to the Nexia, which is the
precursor to the National Lab, and the balance of that goes into the supply
chain, so the supply chain benefits quite significantly from that
investment. In terms of things like the Nuclear
Institute, we are working with the
Q162 Chairman: Fiona, when you were responding to Tim Boswell you talked about long‑term skills that were not funded by industry but which were of national importance. What were you specifically referring to?
Ms Ware: This is probably going back to when I was in Nexia - I worked in Nexia before I came to work for AMEC - some of the programmes such as the molten salts programme would be a long-term research programme but there was no short-term benefit there. Those projects were not funded through the site licence companies. There are programmes that the NDA will fund now through their research programme, but I think it is making sure that those programmes are available to develop some of the skills which we will require and we will need to maintain but which are not currently required on a commercial basis at the present.
Q163 Chairman: Perhaps you could have a little think about that and then drop us a very brief note about some of those specific skills.
Ms Ware: Yes.
Q164 Chairman: The same with you, Ian, in terms of the decommissioning. Perhaps I could finish this session with you, Ian. We are a little confused about the decommissioning time framework. That was brought home to us at Sizewell B yesterday. Within the next six years there are six nuclear power stations that are going to start their decommissioning programme, that are going to stop producing electricity. What is the length of the decommissioning programme? Perhaps you could put in a note to us on that. What factors are involved in dictating how long and, also, how much it will cost? There seem to be endless time scales for some of these decommissioning programmes and we would like to get a clear handle on that in terms of matching the skills needs to the decommissioning programme.
Dr Hudson: I can write a note to that effect. Generically, what affects time scales is a balance between removing the high hazard part of the plant, which is the fuel, and then making a decision about what the care and maintenance regime might be, what time scales that might be.
Chairman: You indicated earlier, and Fiona picked it up, that you now have clear programmes for decommissioning with proper time lines. It would be really quite useful to the Committee to have those.
Q165 Dr Iddon: I think we should point out, Chairman, that yesterday at Sizewell somebody indicated that the graphite core reactors could be decommissioned in less than ten years. Nine years was quoted.
Dr Hudson: One of the roles that we fulfil on behalf of government is that the lifetime planner approach that we use for our science we apply to British Energy to get a sense of what the liabilities might be in the future. If you would allow me, I can certainly put a note together to that effect.
Chairman: We would be very grateful for that. On that note, could we thank you very much indeed, Dr Ian Hudson, Fiona Ware, Alex Walsh and Bill Bryce.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Adrian Bull, UK Stakeholder Relations Manager, Westinghouse, Dr Mike Weightman, HM Chief Inspector, Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, David Barber, Head of Technical Training, British Energy, and Robert Davies, Marketing Director, Areva, gave evidence.
Chairman: Let me welcome our second panel of expert witnesses this morning: Adrian Bull, the UK Stakeholder Relations Manager for Westinghouse; Dr Mike Weightman, HM Chief Inspector for Nuclear Installations Inspectorate; David Barber, the Head of Technical Training for British Energy, and Robert Davies, the Marketing Director of Areva. Thank you all very much indeed for coming this morning.
Turner: Part of the torturous timeline for what
kilowatt hour is generated in the
Dr Weightman: I would never claim any of
our processes are perfect. We always
seek to improve on them. This is a new
process for us that was developed about three years ago. We put it to government after talking to
stakeholders and finding out what the issues were. We also took some advantage of an
International Atomic Energy Agency peer review of our approach to nuclear
regulation in the
Turner: Why are we doing this specifically as a
Dr Weightman: I would not say British reactors are worse than anybody else's.
Q168 Dr Turner: They have not lasted as long for starters!
Dr Weightman: My duty is to protect the
people and society of the
Q169 Mr Boswell: Given that both in terms of build and to some extent also in operation this is not a national industry, it is an international one, can you give us the assurance that by and large, allowing for differences in, for example, legal structures, the intentions of the major regulators in most of the major countries where there are nuclear installations amount to the same thing, even if the expression of those in terms of GDA or whatever is slightly different?
Dr Weightman: Yes, that is our intention. The goal is the same.
Q170 Mr Boswell: I am not asking you to single out any defaults from that, but broadly that is happening?
Dr Weightman: Yes. Some of the variations will come from what
operators want. If you look at the EPR
design, some of the requirements that the operators in
Q171 Mr Boswell: Could there also be some technical constraints, for example, on geological conditions, the likelihood of earthquakes and so forth?
Dr Weightman: The earthquake issue is
unlikely to be a large issue in the
Q172 Dr Turner: Just how much variation is there internationally in standards? The implication is that we are having bespoke systems, if you like, which are likely to add to the cost. Are there any serious questions about international safety standards that mean that we have to do it differently?
Dr Weightman: No. The issue is not that the design may be
different, it is a question of how you justify that design. In
Q173 Dr Turner: Is there any problem as far as the Nuclear Inspectorate is concerned in getting access to sufficient technical expertise to carry out this process? Can you recruit enough engineers to run this process?
Dr Weightman: I think it is fairly well known that we have struggled with our recruitment campaign and our numbers. We have put out a pretty aggressive recruitment campaign. HSE, my parent body, is looking at that now to try and make sure we can go harder into the market and that is also being supported by government in terms of reviews that they are doing. You may be aware of the Tim Stone Review.
Q174 Dr Turner: How many engineers have you got and how many do you need?
Dr Weightman: I have got 153.25 full-time equivalent inspectors at the moment and in addition to that I have got eight that are being brought up to understand the nuclear industry and nuclear regulation from the rest of HSE where they were specialists. From our first recruitment earlier this year we expect to get another nine in and from just a recent recruitment we expect to get probably around seven in. That will only bring me up into the 170s. For existing predictive business excluding new build I need 192. That is looking at the MoD programme and the decommissioning programme as you go into the future because we regulate MoD facilities as well. Our planning for three designs coming forward eventually -because we have got step-wise in our Generic Design Assessment process - would mean an extra 40 inspectors around that. That is not the whole picture because we have a demographic problem as well. I really look forward to the pills that the Chairman talked about at the start! We have over ten per cent at the moment that are over 60 and that will grow in another year or so to about 20 per cent and two years after it will grow to 30-40 per cent.
Chairman: You are depressing us now!
Q175 Dr Turner: What effect is this going to have on the timescale for deploying new reactors? Is it going to slow the process down because you simply have not got enough people power to throw at the problem?
Dr Weightman: What we did in the GDA
process was we stepped it to resource build up to reduce regulator uncertainty
as we went forwards and we also manage the project risk associated with it as
well. That means that we did complete
step two within the proposed timescale with a lot of work and we put 50 reports
out into the public domain about that, so about four designs. We have started step three. Those reports were basically saying, in terms
of security and nuclear safety, because I also regulate nuclear security, these
designs should be licensable in the
Q176 Dr Turner: So there are delays?
Dr Weightman: At the present time. We might manage to actually increase resourcing over our planned resourcing so that we can recapture some of the delays and perhaps we will get more benefits from our interactions with our overseas regulatory colleagues than perhaps we planned for, and there may be other aspects we can do around that.
Q177 Dr Turner: What about the costs of the process? Presumably your costs are borne by the public purse?
Dr Weightman: No, not at all.
Q178 Dr Turner: Could you tell us about the cost structure?
Dr Weightman: There are two aspects to that. Under the Nuclear Installation Act our normal cost for our work on licensed facilities is all recovered from industry plus all the overheads. Around 95 to 97 per cent of our costs are recovered from industry through the Treasury, et cetera. In terms of new build and Generic Design Assessment they are not licensees so we cannot recover them under the Nuclear Installation Act, but what we did do is we got the Fees Regulations changed to make sure that we can recover our costs on a similar basis from the vendors and that is what is happening now. Our costs are not recovered from the public purse.
Q179 Dr Turner: We still do not know exactly what the size of those costs are and what percentage of the final cost of a new nuclear station they are going to be.
Dr Weightman: I could write to you with some of the figures.
Q180 Dr Turner: Could you give us a rough indication?
Dr Weightman: I think it is around about £5-10 million or so per design.
Q181 Chairman: Could I just have a view from other members of the panel as to the issues that Dr Turner has raised? How do you view the NII, Robert?
Mr Davies: It is under way. We are very pleased that the NII and the EA joined together; it is very joined up. We are concerned about resource. Tim Stone's eight-point proposals seem to be good. We are going to have to resource up and use more of the information from the other international regulators.
Mr Bull: I would agree with a lot of what Robert has said. We recognise that there is nothing more important than making sure that the process is done thoroughly and robustly and openly and transparently, in the way that Dr Weightman and his team are doing it at the moment. The process is absolutely the right process. We are all keen to make sure that we get to the end of that process as quickly as possible but without any kind of cutting of corners.
Q182 Dr Turner: How soon do you anticipate licensing the designs that are going to be used?
Dr Weightman: The programme is that we should get within three years to near the end of the Generic Design Assessment process. This process is predicated on building a fleet of identical reactors. We hope British engineers do not do their normal thing and try and change things, but we cannot control that, the operators and vendors will do that. Then we would look at site specific aspects before granting a licence and at the operational organisational aspects as well. There are three aspects we look at before we grant a licence to install a facility: the operating organisation, the siting aspects and the design of the facility itself.
Q183 Dr Turner: Can you give a tentative date?
Dr Weightman: After three years it would be six to 12 months to grant a licence. Whether they can apply in between times for a licence to start working in parallel is for others to decide.
Q184 Dr Turner: So we are looking at 2011/2012 before anyone can break ground?
Dr Weightman: The date of 2011 is the comparable date that the NRC have got for their final rule making for AP1000. Some of this work is predicated on having some frozen designs rather than changing designs so that you get clarity on all sides. There is not going to be any change to construction and that facilitates and minimises, as far as I understand it, project risk both in terms of costs and timescales.
I think you sat in on the first session when I made the point that INucE and
the Royal Academy of Engineering did not feel there was a sufficient supply of
engineers to meet the requirements of new nuclear build as well as
decommissioning. Areva has also
indicated that there is a shortage of skills.
As a company you are reprioritising your efforts by building another EPR
Mr Davies: I am not sure worry is the
correct word. We look very carefully at
each market. This is a very important
market for us. It is a European
springboard. That is why we are
here. We divide this new build programme
into three simple phases. The first is
where we are today, which is doing the licensing and regulatory stage, getting
the design ready and for us then to build up a supply chain and partners to
then build, which will then start in 2012/2013, and that is over a four or
five-year period for what is going to be the first plant and then there is the
operation of that. So our interest as a
vendor on this is in the first two phases and then supporting the third phase,
which is the 60 years of operation.
Let us say there are about 100 people being employed full-time on the
regulatory and licensing side in the UK, Germany, the United States and France
for the UK EPR, it is about that.
However many reactors are built in the
Mr Bull: I would say that model is
very similar. We have the approach of
buying where we build. We would look to
use the local supply chain. This is one
occasion where the timescales that the nuclear industry works to, which are
quite long, actually help us out rather than the other way round. We have already discussed the licensing
issue, the GDA process and the resources around that. Those are the resources that we need urgently
today. It is probably going to be of the
order of five years before somebody puts a spade in the ground to start
construction work on the first
Q187 Chairman: So you are confident you can deliver?
Mr Bull: Yes.
represent the scrutiny of government policy here. The
Mr Bull: We are seeing the
Robert, I presume you would agree with those
Mr Davies: Yes, I would. I hope the
Q190 Chairman: Is it a reliable customer?
Mr Davies: It has been very reliable to date. There has been a very fast process in the last four years to actually change from a position where nuclear was keeping the nuclear option open into a position now where it is at the heart of the energy policy.
Q191 Chairman: So we are a good customer. This is going to be a very attractive marketplace. What are you doing to invest in the skills base development? What are your links with academia? How are you going to incentivise students to follow careers to give you your supply chain?
Mr Davies: In the past we have sponsored
mechanical engineering students through university. We are in the early stages as far as the
Q192 Chairman: The same question to you, Adrian.
Mr Bull: Globally we are recruiting
about 1,000 people a year at the moment and we are planning to do the same over
the next few years and that is mostly on our new build side. In the
Q193 Chairman: What are you doing to incentivise the training market so that this becomes a really attractive prospect within our universities, schools and colleges?
Mr Bull: We are actively involved in
things like the
Q194 Chairman: Do you regard the development of the new military requirements for nuclear build and nuclear engineering as a threat or is it an opportunity?
Mr Bull: It is probably a mixture of both, but on balance I would say it is more of an opportunity. You heard from BAE Systems earlier about the capability they have to provide services and components to support the nuclear submarine fleet, for instance. Our reactor design is designed in a way that it is modular. The kind of modules that companies like BAE Systems produce to assemble into nuclear submarines are exactly the same kind of technology and the same kind of approach that we use to build a nuclear power station. So there is plenty of scope for cross-fertilisation and synergy between the two sides there. There is the potential that people who enter one side of the sector might divert in their careers to the other, but I think having that diversity is an added attraction to bring people into nuclear per se and a lot of those skills do have an element whereby they are transferable.
Q195 Chairman: David, British Energy is clearly a major player within the nuclear industry at the moment and yet it is being sold or the British Government stake is being sold. Why is that at a time when we are sort of in this new, wonderful phase of all things nuclear?
Mr Barber: There are a number of options that the company is involved in looking at, but it is probably not appropriate for me to comment given the legal position that we are in.
Q196 Chairman: Nobody is listening. You can be as frank as you like!
Mr Barber: In terms of the skills and
the transferability of skills, which was a point just raised, the nuclear
engineer is probably a bit of a myth.
When you look at the skills that we require to operate our plants, it is
80/90 per cent general engineering. We
need good mechanical, electrical, control or instrumentation civil engineer
skills. We can do the conversion. The proliferation of bespoke qualifications
is probably not helpful to the industry as a whole, it is just the general
engineering and then the conversion. As
a company we have recognised both in our physical assets but also in our human
assets that we needed to increase and improve our investment so over the last
three years we have opened new training facilities. We have invested over £20 million in
developing new training programmes. We
have got international accreditation boards to look at those programmes. We have just let a contract for
£10 million for an apprentice programme over seven years and it is
utilising the redundant capacity down in
Q197 Chairman: Why are those softer skills important to the nuclear engineering industry?
Mr Barber: When you look at the
performance of the business there are two components: it is the availability and reliability of the
plant and it is the capability and reliability of the people. When you look at the history of events,
whether they have been significant events or less significant in the industry,
the human being has been the factor in that.
There is a lot of emphasis placed on the quality of the person. We have adopted the same approach that they
have in the
Q198 Chairman: Do you think the universities should be doing more to provide you with people who have got those soft skills or our colleges or our schools system?
Mr Barber: What we find is that people that come out of university have got a level of personal responsibility and are professional learners and they come with a lot of the right attributes. The people that come from school on apprenticeships do not have the right attributes. The first programme starts in September this year and it is a life skills team, working skills, personal responsibility. They are able to take part professionally in the environment that we have in the nuclear industry. The technical side of it is the same that you would get anywhere, it is transferable and I would suggest that the behavioural side of it is equally applicable to any major industry.
Q199 Chairman: David will not give us a comment about the British Energy sale and the Committee is equally confused about why Westinghouse was sold in 2006, at the very point at which there were likely to be very significant contracts coming their way and in which Government could be a beneficiary.
Mr Bull: I think I can probably give a
better answer given that the Westinghouse sale by BNFL, which is UK Government
owned, has now gone through. Government
had made it very clear sometime before that that if there was to be any new
nuclear programme in the UK then it was going to be down to the market to
deliver, the private sector and that there was not going to be any taxpayers'
money going into a new build programme.
On that basis it was absolutely right that the companies that might
participate within that market should be companies which are not owned by or
largely controlled by UK Government. It
is a slightly strange situation in the first place perhaps for UK Government to
own Westinghouse, which is a company headquartered overseas and with most of
its activities overseas, albeit at a time when our aspirations were slightly
different, but we would find it much more difficult to participate in this
market at the moment, given the framework that the Government has set, if we
were still under Government ownership.
In the case of Westinghouse it was absolutely the right thing to
do. The value of Westinghouse grew very
significantly under BNFL stewardship and so the taxpayer made a significant
profit on its ownership of the company over seven or eight years, and now we
are much better positioned to do business not just in the
Q200 Dr Iddon: The supply chain has been mentioned more than once by this panel. Where are the significant bottlenecks in the supply chain, if there are any that you perceive?
Mr Bull: The most obvious is in the provision of the very heavy forging components. At the moment there is really only one company in the world, Japan Steel Works, that makes those ultra heavy forgings. They are investing in increasing their capacity. There are other companies around the world, including in the UK, that are also looking at whether they might invest significant amounts of money to develop a comparable capacity, but at the moment that is where the major pinch point is. Companies like Westinghouse and other vendors have slots in that order book for many, many years ahead so that we can assure ourselves that we can provide and source those components to meet the orders that we sign up to.
Q201 Dr Iddon: We cannot gear up in this country for heavy forging, is that it?
Mr Bull: It is possible. It was in the press recently that Sheffield Forgemasters have a capability to produce forgings not quite at that level and they are looking at investing many millions of pounds into whether they want to invest and build the ultra heavy forging capability not just for the UK market but for the global market. I think that is driven by a point that cuts across lots of the discussion we had earlier on about the supply chain of human resources as well as components, which is we are just at the point in that hockey stick curve where the nuclear renaissance that people have talked about for many, many years is starting to take off. We have heard about this renaissance for the best part of a decade, but in terms of hard orders being signed, it has only been in the last two or three years that we have started to see our AP1000 orders. A previous piece of evidence was about the eight that we have sold already and that has been in the last 18 months. We are seriously starting to ramp up that order book. It is only when people see real orders rather than just a lot of talk and speculation that they are going to be much more confident investing in many cases many millions of pounds in supply chain fabrication equipment.
Q202 Dr Iddon: So what will be the key to encouraging companies to invest in manufacture in this sector?
Mr Bull: I think it will be when they see those orders becoming real for the various reactor vendors. We are in discussions with a number of supply chain companies and I am sure Rob and other vendors are in the same position in terms of making agreements with them to source capacity and source what they can produce from that capacity if they were to invest in it. We have the confidence in turn to do that as we see our order book developing. It is as the customers are starting to put pen to paper ---
Q203 Dr Iddon: So it is beyond licensing and planning?
Mr Bull: Absolutely. The licensing activity is ongoing. Utilities can put planning applications in,
they can get to the end of that process and then they are perfectly at liberty
to just stop. It is when somebody
actually signs the order, the procurement construction contract, that they have
committed to build the thing. With all
of the work we are doing now in the
Q204 Dr Iddon: Robert, does Areva see it that way or do you perceive some other bottlenecks?
Mr Davies: I do not like the word
bottlenecks as it gives an impression that if something is not available today
then you cannot have the ultimate product tomorrow. Right now that is not the case. I do not know yet of any vendor who is unable
to sign the contract to provide a reactor by date X realistically within the
licensing regime because there is a bottleneck of component X, Y, Z, whatever
it is. We know all of the shortfalls
within the global supply chain to feed our reactors. People mentioned forging because it slips off
the tongue, but there are a whole range of things which vary from tubing, some
of the I and C equipment. Some we might
take five years in advance and some two years in advance. If you came to me today and said, "I want a
reactor, please, and I would like you to turn the first earth in 2013 to turn
Dr Iddon: As you know, gentlemen, the Planning Bill is going through the House at the moment. Its plan is to set up a Commission and to speed up planning processes for large capital investment, especially nuclear power stations. It has undergone amendment in the House of Commons because our Members were unhappy about the lack of involvement of local authorities and so on. In general does the new Planning Bill meet with your agreement? Would you be seeking amendments to it yourselves if you were in Parliament?
Q205 Chairman: Could you say whether you think from the regulator's point of view the new planning arrangements will assist you in being able to make decisions within more clear timeframes?
Dr Weightman: I do not think it is in a sense relevant to our decision making. We will do our job on behalf of the people come what may.
Q206 Chairman: Does it help?
Dr Weightman: I do not know whether it helps or not.
Q207 Dr Iddon: Sizewell B had a very long public inquiry.
Dr Weightman: That took our resources in terms of having to contribute, quite rightly, in that planning system at that point in time. We are putting a lot of effort in now to being a lot more open with how we regulate new build at the moment. We got the vendors to put their safety cases into the public domain subject to commercial and security considerations and invited comments from the public. We have put all our reports at the end of step two into the public domain, with some 50-odd reports around that. We have been very clear about our safety assessments, our standards and that is very clear in the public domain. We are comfortable with whatever public scrutiny there is of our approach and our standards and our work because we are public servants. At the end of the day our duty is to the public and the UK Government.
Q208 Chairman: Does anybody else want to comment on the planning issue?
Mr Bull: The principles of it we would
welcome, that more timely and streamlined confidence in the timescale for
decision making in the planning process is something that the industry needs
given that we are looking at private sector investors and the comments that you
made about their ability to go elsewhere in the world. They need to know what the process is in the
Iddon: This time round we are likely to build a
number of these nuclear reactors on existing sites where the local community
relies upon this big investment for jobs, especially in the
Mr Bull: It will be up to the utilities to decide where they put them, but a lot of the sensible comment seems to be that the existing nuclear sites look like a good bet for certainly the first wave of new nuclear stations.
Q210 Mr Marsden: I would like to ask some questions about the recruitment and skills issues. We have had some discussion on this in previous sessions. You were talking about some of your specific shortages in the inspectorate earlier on. Is this a reflection of shortages in engineering generally or is it that much worse in nuclear?
Dr Weightman: I am sure the NIA has got figures on that. I think it is a reflection of the general shortage of engineering skills around. I have heard from David Barber that in terms of general engineering then the skills are transferable. It is a global market as well and that can operate both ways. I was up at Heysham One the other week looking at some items there, the boiler closure unit aspects and it was very interesting to see they had got quite a lot of American engineers over to assist them in that and they were assisting them in quite a lot of work there because there is a large programme of work in looking at some of the ageing phenomena in the existing reactors.
Q211 Mr Marsden: Given the security sensitivities of much of what is going to be done we are going to need to have a home grown workforce, are we not?
Dr Weightman: I do not dispute that. It is still a global work market that will operate both ways. Clearly in one of my other areas of responsibility, nuclear security, we have to look at the vetting of whoever is involved in operating new nuclear power stations and there are issues around that as well.
Mr Bull: You are right, there is that
issue about the retention and re-skilling of the existing workforce. Our workforce has gone from around about
4,200 at its absolute peak in the mid-Eighties down to about 1,300 and it is up
to about 1,400 or 1,500 now and rising at the moment. We are looking at how we attract new people
in. We do a lot of work with the schools
and the universities in the region around Preston and more widely across
Q213 Mr Marsden: You are talking about young people. I am being ageist on this occasion. I want to hear about older people. What are you doing for older women, for example?
Mr Bull: I am not aware that we have any specifics ---
Q214 Mr Marsden: What about adult apprenticeships generally?
Mr Bull: I would have to write to you
with the figures on that. I do not have
the break down by age profile of our apprentices. I know we have about
Q215 Mr Marsden: Does anyone else want to comment on this demographic issue? The point that I have just made to Mr Bull is that even if you get all of the red hot school-leavers and graduates you are still going to have a shortage because you are going to have far fewer graduates and school-leavers in the next ten to 15 years.
Mr Barber: One of the issues as well
generally in the
Q216 Mr Marsden: Let me ask you about the sector skills council, Cogent, as you are a Board member of that. We heard in the previous session that there were possibly four or five sector skills councils that potentially affect the nuclear industry. Cogent, of course, has "pot pourri" membership of quite a lot of other non-nuclear interests. Does that hamper or assist trying to get skills going in to the nuclear sector?
Mr Barber: It comes back to the earlier point of having general engineering skills. Really what you want is the Cogents, Semta, EU skills to be collaborating together on growing the whole engineering skills population. There are a lot of similarities, even if you just take the Cogent footprint, in the foundation degree apprenticeships on the approach that we take to skills. The efforts that are going in to promoting science and engineering in schools are all common.
Q217 Mr Marsden: So the fact that Cogent is quite a broad umbrella sector skills organisation does not worry you?
Mr Barber: No. To some extent it is helpful. The co-ordination needs to take place within other sector skills councils. I do not think the Government needs to do anything else in terms of the skills structure. What it needs to do is focus on making sure it delivers what it has set out to deliver.
Q218 Mr Marsden: Are you happy you are going to be relicensed by the new UK Commission on Employment and Skills?
Mr Barber: It is a difficult one for me
to comment on, but I would hope we are because we have got very good support
from industry on that body and it has got clear targets and plans to move
forwards. There is quite a large number
of organisations trying to do the same things, but where we bump up against
them we are very clear on who is doing what.
You develop a memorandum of understanding so they are not
Q219 Mr Marsden: I met her and, if I may say so, she is a very impressive figure.
Mr Barber: That was our concern from an industry point of view, a lot of people tripping over the same things. I think those are positive approaches to try and improve that.
Q220 Dr Blackman-Woods: We have already heard a little bit about what you are doing to attract people into the sector. Is there any evidence that it is becoming easier to attract young people into the nuclear industry now that it appears to have a future or are the environmental obstacles still too big to really get the numbers of young people into the sector that you need?
Mr Barber: At the moment from an
operational point of view we are not having problems attracting people. We probably get about 50 applicants per
position. We are not having difficulty
now. The issue is will we have
difficulty in ten years' time. You can
have the most robust training structure in the world but unless you can get
people to come in to put through that process it is not going to be helpful in
ten years' time. What we can do is
support the efforts that are going in with the
Q221 Dr Blackman-Woods: Is industry doing anything to target young women in particular so that they see a future career in the nuclear industry because the numbers are rather low at present, are they not?
Mr Barber: I think one of the things that is helpful is having some role models. At some of the careers fairs we take along some of our recent female graduates and we use those to help talk and act as science and engineering ambassadors supporting the schools. If you have the role models I think that helps to attract more people into the industry. We have just appointed our first female station director and again it becomes a focus point and people can see it can be done.
Q222 Chairman: Any other comments on the gender issue?
Mr Bull: The gender balance in the organisations that we represent, the industry as a whole, probably represents what has been in the science and technology and engineering courses in universities at the time when we have been doing recruitment. I think with that in mind, when you are looking to the universities now and see the far greater proportion of women who are doing science, technology, engineering qualifications, we are seeing that balance reflected through into the nuclear industry. I think the industry's broader level of public perception has changed in the last ten years or so and has been reflected in people's willingness and keenness to come and join the industry, whatever gender they may be and that has to be a good thing.
Mr Davies: We recruit about 2,500 people
a year from Europe and from the
Chairman: We always like to finish every session on a very positive note. Thank you very much indeed.
 Note from the witness: "The contract I referred to was not 'awarded'- we announced the preferred bidder".
 Note from the witness: "On more than one occasion Westinghouse has turned down proposals from potential customers (or decided not to bid on a tender when invited) because we could not deliver to the timeframe requested without going back on commitments already made. In addition we have turned down several discussions with countries that we did not feel were yet ready to take forward their first nuclear power plant."