Engineering: turning ideas into reality - Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee Contents

2  Nuclear Engineering—Skills

I think it is important to recognise that there is a skills gap, not only in nuclear engineering which it clearly is, but in engineering in general.[14]

Dr Stephen Garwood, Director, Engineering & Technology-Submarines, Rolls-Royce


22.  Prior to starting this inquiry, we heard from multiple sources that the engineering sector was concerned about a skills time-bomb. Here is a small selection of the many facts, figures and opinion we received on this issue:

—  the total number of registered engineers and technicians has declined from 263,999 in 1997 to 242,530 in 2006, which represents a fall of 8%;[15]

—  there has been a 22% decline in the numbers of Chartered Engineers in all age groups under 55 years, a two-thirds decline in the numbers of Incorporated Engineers; and a 50% decline in Engineering Technicians;[16]

—  one in ten organisations in the SEMTA footprint have had difficulties recruiting;[17]

—  around 13% of graduates leave university with the most valuable science, technology, engineering or maths degrees and this needs to rise to at least 25% if the UK is to match the predicted growth in jobs;[18]

—  "As engineering populations age and vacancies are 'booming' worldwide, the result is the visibility of the shortfall of young people entering the engineering profession. The result for many companies is a true shortage of engineers that is (and will continue) to endanger their growth and in some cases their existence."[19]

—  40% of National Grid's workforce will reach retirement age over the next 10-15 years.[20] The UK faces a "crucial skills shortage from 2015 to 2025 that will make power supplies less reliable and more expensive".[21]

23.  This final point drives home one potential impact of a skills shortage. We decided to explore the skills issues in more depth by way of a case study on nuclear engineering.

24.  The Prime Minister announced in July 2008 that Britain must build several new nuclear power stations over the next 15 years to replace ageing plants and contribute to a post-oil economy, with the first of the new reactors coming online in 2017.[22] Our reaction, like other interested observers, was concern that there might be a gap between the PM's desire for a rapid 'nuclear renaissance' and the UK's capacity to deliver such a programme. We address this question in the following sections of the report.

Nuclear engineering in the UK

25.  Extensive nuclear investment programmes in the 1950s created a world-class nuclear engineering capability in the UK. This was reflected in the building of nuclear power stations, reprocessing facilities, a nuclear defence capability, and world class R&D and university programmes. The UK is one of the few countries to have fully developed a closed nuclear fuel cycle with the ability to reprocess and recycle fuel as well as to deploy prototype fast reactors for breeding fuel. Additionally, fusion research in the UK is world leading. However, the 'dash for gas' in the late 1970s and 1980s meant that nuclear energy received less investment. The UK moved away from fast reactor technology, R&D programmes were cut, and eventually the teaching of nuclear engineering and related courses in universities declined. Eventually the Government decided to break up and sell BNFL.

26.  As international recognition has converged on the need to reduce carbon emissions and increase security of supply, so has international enthusiasm for nuclear energy reignited. Worldwide, there are over 436 power reactors contributing about 15% of the world's electricity.[23] As of January 2009, 43 new reactors were under construction around the world, 106 were being planned and 266 proposed.[24] Currently, many countries are revising their energy policy to include nuclear as part of a diversified mix. Countries with a legacy of nuclear energy that are committed to new build include: the US, France, Japan, Russia, China and South Korea. Many other countries are exploring or progressing new nuclear build, including Sweden, Finland, South Africa, Canada, Italy and Belgium. In addition, countries keen to use nuclear energy in the future include Thailand, Mexico, Argentina, Philippines, Qatar and Jordan.

27.  There are 10 nuclear power plants operating in the UK,[25] but only three are planned to operate beyond 2020 (see Table 2).[26] Nuclear energy provides 15% of the UK's electricity, but planned closures of nuclear power stations means that this figure will decrease over the next 10 years at the same time as the Government attempts to increase the amount of electricity produced per unit of carbon. If the UK is to maintain or grow nuclear energy's contribution to the national electricity requirement, new nuclear power stations have to come online quickly.

Table 2. Nuclear power stations in the UK
Station Owned by Commissioned Current Closure Date
Hinkley Point B British Energy
Hunterston B British Energy
HartlepoolBritish Energy
Heysham 1British Energy
Dungeness B British Energy
Heysham 2British Energy
TornessBritish Energy
Sizewell BBritish Energy

28.  Clearly, nuclear new build is a significant engineering challenge, which, if it is to be completed quickly and safely, will require many engineers with relevant expertise and experience, as well as a fully connected supply chain. Even without new build in the UK, the entire nuclear industry employs over 18,000 graduates and skilled people, and that number will have to increase if the closing power stations are to be decommissioned. A study of Nuclear and Radiological Skills by the DTI in 2002 reported that the power, fuel, defence and clean-up sub-sectors of the nuclear industry would require approximately 1,000 graduates a year until 2017.[27] Of these, about 700 would be replacements for retirements and 300 in response to the growth in nuclear clean-up. In 2001, the year preceding the report, these sub-sectors were estimated to be recruiting about 560 graduates a year.[28] In addition to nuclear new build and decommissioning, the UK will have to consider legacy waste management, next generation naval propulsion and retention of a deterrent capability, not to mention the many other major civil engineering programmes that will be taking place nationally and internationally. In short, there will be significant competition for engineering skills.


29.  The new build process has been summarised by the Dalton Nuclear Institute: "At the start of the project an intelligent buyer and regulatory capability is needed." The 'regulatory capability' in the UK begins with the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process, previously known as 'pre-licensing'. The GDA process was devised by the nuclear regulators (HSE, the Environment Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency) to assess the safety of nuclear plant designs. The Dalton Nuclear Institute continues:

[T]he construction phase is very much akin to normal civil construction associated with any major infrastructure projects. Based on a new nuclear build programme being a £2bn per annum commitment, this represents a small fraction of the existing construction industry. Approximately 80% of the list items for a nuclear plant could be sourced in the UK, and the value of these components is approximately 50% as expensive [as] items sourced from overseas. […]

With regards to decommissioning […], the end process may simply be bulldozing an historic building. As for nuclear power plant construction, this doesn't need any significant nuclear expertise. Where the nuclear engineering expertise is required is in understanding how facilities can be decommissioned.[29]


30.  In May 2007, the Government invited vendors of nuclear reactors interested in building nuclear plants in the UK to have their designs assessed against a set of eligibility criteria for the first stage of the assessment process. In July 2007, four such designs were declared eligible for the first stage of GDA: Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd submitted the ACR 1000; EDF-Areva submitted the EPR; GE-Hitachi submitted the GE ESBWR; and Toshiba-Westinghouse submitted the AP 1000.[30]

31.  In January 2008, the Government published Meeting the Energy Challenge: A White Paper on Nuclear Power in which it announced that "it would be in the public interest to allow energy companies the option of investing in new nuclear power stations".[31] The Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency have completed the initial stage of the GDA process and concluded that "they could see no shortfalls at this stage—in terms of safety, security or the environment—which would prevent any of the designs from ultimately being constructed on a licensed site in the UK".[32] However, since then, Atomic Energy of Canada has dropped out of the process[33] and GE-Hitachi has temporarily suspended its application leaving only EDF-Areva and Toshiba-Westinghouse as potential players in the first round of new build.[34]

32.  On 23 June 2008, The Guardian reported on a letter to BERR from Dr Mike Weightman, HM Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations:

Government plans for a new generation of nuclear power stations risk delays [and rising costs] after warnings by its own inspectors that no decision can be made on reactor designs because of a shortage of skilled engineers.[35]

Dr Weightman confirmed in oral evidence that he was struggling to recruit sufficient inspectors. He told us in July 2008 that he had 153¼ full-time equivalent inspectors and was expecting to recruit about 20 more people. He bleakly noted, however, that: "For existing predictive business excluding new build I need 192" [emphasis added].[36] The Minister confirmed that there "are some issues around skills capacity" in relation to the GDA process.[37] However, when we asked him if the Government will complete the GDA process on time, he optimistically—although not confidently—answered: "We believe we can".[38]

33.  The Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process is important and requires highly skilled inspectors. The Government should make available sufficient resources to the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency so that they can recruit enough staff to complete the GDA process in a timely fashion and to the high standards required. A clear timetable should be published by the end of 2009.

Skills shortages in nuclear engineering

34.  We found plenty of evidence to suggest that there are very real skills shortages in the nuclear industry. As described above, it is the Generic Design Assessment and licensing of the nuclear technologies that creates the most immediate demand.[39] There are also shortages of HSE inspectors, safety case specialists, and project managers with nuclear experience.[40] However, across the nuclear engineering sector as a whole there is an oversupply of people qualified at S/NVQ Level 1 and below and S/NVQ Level 4 and above. It is those jobs for which S/NVQ level 2 and 3 qualified people are required—who account for 53% of the nuclear industry—where the deficit exists (see Figure 1).[41]
Figure 1. Percentages of employees in the nuclear industry with S/NVQ levels 1-4 against required S/NVQ levels. From Cogent fact sheet, June 2008

35.  Additionally, the nuclear industry has an ageing employee base:

The SET [science, engineering and technology] workforce has a more ageing profile than the overall industry. 11% are due to retire over the next 10 years, but this could rise as high as 20% if early retirements at age 60 occur. Certain areas were found to have an older workforce, e.g. 44% of process & machine operatives are aged over 45. While overall demand for this group may be declining this is outstripped by the rate of retirements. Nuclear heat generation has an ageing profile with 18% due to retire over the next 10 years; however this could rise up to 33% if early retirements occur.[42]

36.  Some concern has been raised that these problems in the nuclear sector will be problematic come the commencement of a new build programme. In particular, the already skills-short sector could be further damaged by internal competition for talent, between decommissioning, the military and civil new build.[43] However, the Royal Academy of Engineering noted that:

There is nothing technically difficult in the decommissioning of the UK's graphite reactors. It does not require nuclear engineering because once the reactors have been defuelled there is no fissile material and hence no nuclear or criticality threats. […] Hence, there is no urgency requiring the diversion of nuclear engineering expertise to the task of decommissioning.[44]

Expert opinion on the feasibility of delivering new build

37.  Despite reservations about the speed of the GDA process and skills shortages, we heard from academics, industry and the Government that the timetable for getting new nuclear power stations up and running in ten years time is tight but achievable. Both Professor Jonathan Billowes, from Dalton Nuclear Institute, and Dr Stephen Garwood, from Rolls-Royce, agreed that the UK has not "missed the boat".[45] Alex Walsh, from BAE Systems, noted:

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.[46]

38.  When asked "is it doable", Fiona Ware, from AMEC, answered:

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.[47]

39.  We also heard from Robert Davies, from AREVA, and Adrian Bull, from Westinghouse, both of whom were in agreement. As Mr Bull put it:

Mr Bull: 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. […] 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 UK plant, whatever design that might be. Even if somebody were to sign a contract today, they would have to get through all of the licensing and site specific approval processes before they could start construction. There will be a significant lead time when supply chain companies know that there is a project there that they have to resource up to deal with. Like Areva, we are talking to a number of the supply chain companies and we have got a number of arrangements in place at one level or another. People will have that foresight. When we start to look to operation, it is another five years beyond that. When somebody puts the first spade in the ground then the operators of that plant will know that the clock starts ticking and in five years' time they need to have the appropriate number of trained and skilled operators.

Chairman: So you are confident you can deliver?

Mr Bull: Yes.[48]

40.  Despite the general optimism, we did come across some warnings. The Institution of Mechanical Engineers told us that "the UK's capacity to build a new generation of nuclear power stations is uncertain".[49] And the Royal Academy of Engineering pointed out that, irrespective of whether the UK can deliver new nuclear power stations by 2018, "the UK could by no means be self-sufficient in the building of a new generation of nuclear power stations in the timescales required" (emphasis added).[50] The Government did not agree with this analysis and argued that "There is no reason to believe that we need to bring in any significant levels [of engineers] from abroad".[51]

41.  We note the Government's optimism that delivering new nuclear power stations within ten years is possible. However, we are not convinced that the skills shortage in nuclear engineering can be bridged quite as easily as some have suggested. In particular, the Generic Design Assessment, which kick-starts the whole process, is already running slower than expected, and the remaining workforce is ageing. The Government must continue its investment in engineering and nuclear engineering skills and produce a clear skills plan by the end of 2009 (see Paragraph 33), to ensure its nuclear new build ambitions can be met.

The nuclear skills sector

42.  Our report Re-skilling for recovery argued that the UK skills sector is overly complicated. It bemoaned "the multiplicity of planning organisations", which led to "duplication, confusion and employer fatigue".[52] We were therefore unsurprised to discover a typically diffuse set of organisations charged with promoting skills in the nuclear engineering sector, let alone the engineering sector as a whole.

43.  There are ten Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) that directly represent the engineering sector (see Table 3). Although Cogent is directly responsible for nuclear, in the context of new build, ConstructionSkills, Energy & Utility Skills and SummitSkills are also directly relevant. The SSCs exist to reduce skills gaps and shortages by boosting the skills of existing workforces and promoting learning in each of their sectors.[53] To do this, they work with employers to develop, review and revise National Occupational Standards,[54] and to produce apprenticeship frameworks. Table 3. Sector Skills Councils representing the engineering sector
Sector Skills Council Representing…
CogentChemicals and pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, nuclear, petroleum and polymer industries
ConstructionSkills Construction industry
e-skills uk IT and telecoms industries
Energy & Utility Skills Electricity, gas, waste management and water industries
GoSkillsPassenger transport industries
Improve Ltd Food and drink manufacturing and processing
ProskillsBuilding products, coatings, extractives, glass and print industries
SemtaScience, engineering & manufacturing technologies
Skillfast-UK Design, manufacturing and servicing of clothing, footwear and textile fabrics
SummitSkills Building services engineering

44.  Working alongside the SSCs are National Skills Academies, which are employer-led centres of excellence that deliver training at all levels. The National Skills Academy for Nuclear (NSAN) is "focusing primarily on addressing the acute gap in technical and vocational skills".[55] This is in contrast to the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL)—which describes itself as "the only commercially run organisation in the UK with a specific government remit to preserve and grow nuclear engineering skills"[56]—which is charged with maintaining the 'skills pipeline' at the other end of the spectrum: post-graduate and professional nuclear engineering. In between NSAN (vocational training) and NNL (postgraduate training) are the universities, which train young people in general engineering and in some cases specifically in nuclear engineering; for example, MSc courses such as the Birmingham University Physics & Technology of Nuclear Reactors or the Nuclear Technology Education Consortium (N-TEC) Course.

45.  Although this brief description of the nuclear skills sector is a simplification, it is useful to outline the general areas of responsibility. During the course of the inquiry, we were not presented with such a description. It would have been of benefit, not only to us, but also to the Minister, who, relatively new in post, did not seem to know which institution has responsibility for each area of skills provision:

We have the National Skills Academy for Nuclear and that is helping to develop […] the capacity in universities with degrees—Masters degrees in particular.[57]

46.  Perhaps the reason for confusion is that although NSAN currently focuses on NVQ levels 2 and 3, it could (should the industry demand it) develop stronger links with universities and the NNL, which provide training at levels 4, 5 and above. Such employer-led flexibility is important, but is undermined in the absence of—at least we found no evidence for—a master plan for the provision of skills: how many people were needed at each NVQ level and in which field to deliver on the Government's nuclear ambitions. For example, as Professor Billowes put it:

[W]e are going to need operators to operate plant[s] from 2018, and they should be in the educational system now and they need a career path; they have got to be suitably qualified and experienced, and getting experience takes years.[58]

47.  We welcome the formation of the National Skills Academy for Nuclear: employer-led training is the best way to ensure that industry gets the skills it requires. However, we also believe that there should be greater clarity from industry and Government about which institutions do what in terms of skills provision.

R&D and skills capacity in nuclear engineering

48.  Between the various programmes in civil and military nuclear fission and nuclear fusion, the UK has a strong research base in nuclear physics and engineering. The UK's fusion research is world-class. Researchers and engineers at UKAEA, Culham, look after JET[59], the world's largest tokamak[60] reactor, on behalf of the European fusion R&D community. Knowledge gained through research at Culham is directly contributing to ITER, the international collaboration to build a prototype commercial fusion reactor. The UK also has strength in nuclear fission engineering. In particular, as Dr Garwood from Rolls-Royce put it:

There is a very strong strength on design still in [the UK]. [Rolls-Royce] has been designing pressurised water reactors for 50 years. [It has] 850 nuclear engineers in the broader sense working today on that activity and that is a continuing skill. There is also […] a very strong capability out in the supply chain and in certain industries in the nuclear area.[61]

49.  Professor Billowes, Dalton Nuclear Institute, agreed that the UK "has a lot of expertise in different reactor systems",[62] but warned that research in this area is under threat since "we cannot get research money from EPSRC […] because there is the perception that the United Kingdom is no longer supporting advanced reactor R&D".[63] This perception is at least in part due to the UK's absence from several of the international research projects on fourth generation reactors. For example, in October 2006, the former Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) withdrew the UK from active membership of the Generation IV International Forum (Gen-IV or GIF) charter. The GIF programme was started in 2000 by nine countries, including the UK,[64] and is currently considering six reactor types. Although the UK retains GIF membership, it is a 'non-active' partner. The UK's withdrawal has been explained as a refocusing of DTI's priorities following the Energy Review towards near term objectives, and means that BERR will no longer provide the annual funding of up to £5 million for UK researchers to participate in GIF.[65] The Government said:

We took a view that there were other areas that we wanted to prioritise. As you know, this technology and experimental work is unlikely to produce significant, commercial development until after about 2030. The aim is to ensure that we focus on other areas of research. We are involved in [Torus] and we are encouraging university research.[66]

However, we note AMEC's opinion:

Participation in international collaborative R&D projects has proven to be a valuable training ground in maintaining and developing UK nuclear skills. For example, AMEC has been able to maintain a competent reactor physics capability to assess new reactor designs, rather than just provide ongoing support to existing designs. This has been achieved through participation in Generation IV programmes. The UK Government's withdrawal of support to these programmes is viewed negatively by industry and by our international partners as reducing the UK's standing in the international nuclear community and removing a vital industrial training route. AMEC strongly urges the Government to reconsider its support to these activities.[67]

We also note Professor Jonathan Billowes' comment:

it is not just the Gen-IV programme. There are other [research programmes] in Europe [where] the UK is the only country missing from the table, like the accelerator-driven systems and energy amplifier systems. We do not seem to be engaging even with Europe in nuclear engineering areas.[68]

50.  The design of fourth generation nuclear reactors will go ahead with or without UK participation, and it is likely that the UK will want to start building fourth generation power stations in the future. The UK should avoid positioning itself so that it has little expertise in the very nuclear systems it needs in the future. In a post-oil economy, nuclear power will be a major player in the energy market and the UK should grasp enthusiastically the opportunity to take a lead role in the international nuclear industry.

51.  We estimate that it would only cost an additional £9 million per year to maintain and improve UK knowledge, capability and international involvement in nuclear engineering R&D projects. For example, Europe has an ambitious plan for a demonstration fast reactor by 2020 and the UK has capability in this area. However, unless UK researchers are able to contribute to the EU and GIF programmes, the UK runs the risk of being sidelined in future EU energy policy. Involvement in this research area would cost £1 million per year. Our full breakdown of areas in which the UK would benefit from research investment is given in Table 4.Table 4. Proposed Annual Investment Requirement in Advanced Reactors & Fuel Cycle for UK to Maintain Knowledge, Capability and International Involvement
Research area Estimated cost per annum Consortia Benefit/Reason
High temperature reactors £2.0 m Gen IV, EU, PBMR, NGNP · Small reactors for hydrogen economy and non-electricity use.

· Reactors well suited to deep-burning UK plutonium stockpile.

· Keeps UK knowledge of graphite developed for safety case support to existing Magnox and AGR Reactors.

Sodium Cooled Fast Reactors £1.0 m EU, Gen IV·Europe has an ambitious plan for demonstration fast reactor by 2020. The UK has capability in this area and unless UK researchers contribute, the UK risks being sidelined on future EU energy policy.
Fuel Cycle Technology £2.5 m EU, Gen IV, AFCI ·Advanced fuel cycles are integral part of advanced reactors, but novel fuel 'treatment' technology is needed.

·There is a significant number of applications of novel fuel cycle technology to support treatment of legacy waste at Sellafield.

Novel LWRs£1.0 m EU, IAEA, IRIS ·This R&D directly supports skills and capability for existing reactors, lifetime extension and the deployment of new Gen III systems.
Gen III R&D £2.0 mUK domestic ·This is predominantly a domestic UK programme to support the establishment of the right capability, skills pipeline associated with the 'novel' aspects of Gen III systems that the UK needs to ensure it has intelligent customer capability, for example, thermal hydraulics, control and instrumentation, and safety systems.
International Engagement £0.5 m IAEA / OECD·The UK should ensure it plays a key role in international initiatives such as those coordinated by the IAEA or OECD. Otherwise the UK will lose influence in international nuclear energy development, industry and policy.
TOTAL£9.0 m

52.  The Government should consider which research programmes—including the Generation IV programme, EURATOM, and IAEA and OECD research programmes—are required to support its nuclear activities. We strongly recommend that the Government commission the National Nuclear Laboratory to conduct a cost-benefit analysis on what international R&D offers the UK in relation to maintaining UK nuclear engineering capability and ensuring future UK energy policy is supported.

A way forward for nuclear engineering

53.  During our visit to China and Japan, we were impressed by both administrations' approach to large scale engineering projects. The most impressive characteristic of the Chinese and Japanese Governments—in stark contrast to the UK—was an unwavering confidence that whatever was decided should be done would be done, on time and to budget. We noticed that the Chinese and Japanese officials referred to engineering projects with confidence in part because each project is accompanied by a detailed roadmap for delivery. Such roadmaps form the bedrock of the policy formulation and project delivery process—and their existence is linked to an unambiguous emphasis on the provision of skills and also the importance of engineering advice that exists in those administrations (an issue to which we return later). If a person worked in an environment in which each project has a comprehensive plan for delivery that is acted upon and is always met, he or she would become confident in the ability of that administration to deliver complex engineering projects. This is not something that happens in UK Government. We have outlined above our concerns regarding uncritical optimism regarding the provision of skills for nuclear new build. Further, when we asked the Minister on the Government's plan to deliver an 80% reduction in carbon emissions, he said of the role of nuclear power:

We do not have a statistical 'we want this percentage generation' but we have dropped over the last few years from about 19 per cent to about 15 per cent. We certainly would want to replace that sort of area with nuclear generation of electricity.[69]

54.  When asked if he wanted eight stations as a hard and fast number, as had been reported in the newspapers, he replied:

No. What we are looking at is how we can get a number of nuclear power stations going. Whether we get to the target we are aiming for will depend on a number of factors. You have already seen the significant announcement of EDF and British Energy which suggests we will get some development fairly quickly. By "fairly quickly" we are talking about 2017/2018.[70]

55.  The Chairman summarised the Minister's performance during oral evidence: "With respect, you have not said a single thing about what you are actually going to do, other than that you are going to do it."[71]

56.  Despite the lack of a plan, there is an acceptance that there should be a plan:

Mr Boswell: Just to pursue the various players in this orchestra: the National Skills Academy for Nuclear, the National Nuclear Laboratory, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Cogent, the Royal Academy of Engineering […], the universities […] and […] the new Nuclear Institute which is going to be formed out of the Institution of Nuclear Engineers and the British Nuclear Energy Society. You have added in two new bodies […]: the Office for Nuclear Development and the Nuclear Development Forum. How on earth is the Government going to conduct this particular orchestra, make sure it is all playing in tune and gets to the end of the piece at the right time?

Mr O'Brien: Because we have set up the OND, the Office for Nuclear Development, it is their job in a sense to ensure that the conducting of the orchestra is done in a way that produces the tune that we want.

Mr Boswell: They are in the driving seat?

Mr O'Brien: They are essentially there to make sure everything works effectively. I demur slightly from being in the driving seat, they do not directly control companies or anything like that. It is their job to say, "This is where we are. That is where we want to be. This is how we get there." If somebody is going off at the wrong angle, then we tell ministers and ministers will have the job of pulling them back.[72]

57.  We support the formation of the Office for Nuclear Development, but remain concerned about the lack of a clear and detailed plan for delivering the next generation of nuclear power stations. There should be a master roadmap for all major engineering projects, including nuclear new build. The Office for Nuclear Development should take ownership of the roadmap for nuclear. The roadmap should include consideration of: what skills are required over time and what will be needed to deliver the skills capacity ahead of time; other general engineering programmes and nuclear engineering programmes, both national and international; potential bottlenecks in the supply chain; and who is responsible for the delivery of each part of the roadmap. There should be six-monthly progress reports against the roadmap. The roadmap should be in place by the end of 2009.

Case study conclusion: skills

58.  The exploration of skills issues through the lens of nuclear engineering has proved a useful exercise. The key points we took out of this case study relating to skills were that:

—  the consideration of skills shortages is a critical issue for the nuclear engineering sector;

—  the Government must continue its investment in engineering and nuclear engineering skills and maintain a watching brief on the development of skills pertinent to its nuclear new build ambitions; and

—  there should be better clarity from industry and Government across each engineering sector about which institutions do what in terms of skills provision.

59.  Skills requirements will vary from sector to sector and we consider broader skills issues for the engineering community in Chapter 6. We are particularly mindful of the fact that the nuclear engineering sector has a long history of skills provision and that that is not the case in all engineering sectors. In the next chapter we consider an emerging industry that does not have such a history in skills provision: plastic electronics. The chapter focuses on issues relating to innovation and commercialisation; skills issues in relation to plastic electronics are considered in Chapter 6.

14   Q 49 [Ev 375] Back

15   Engineering UK 2007, p 60 Back

16   Engineering UK 2007, p 63 Back

17   2006 Labour Market Survey of the GB Engineering Sectors, April 2007, p 11 Back

18   Ev 335 [CBI] Back

19   From the e-consultation 'Engineering in the UK' , Ev 792-799 Back

20   Ev 131 Back

21   Ev 150 Back

22 Back

23 Back

24 Back

25   Most of the power stations have 2 reactors. There are a similar number of reactors associated with the naval nuclear propulsion programme. Back

26   Ev 421 [British Energy] Back

27   This is a conservative estimate: the National Skills Academy for Nuclear estimates that 1,500 people need to be replaced each year, with an additional 11,500 over the next 20 years to complete the task of decommissioning, and 6,500 in other civil/defence sectors, which includes new build (Ev 431). Back

28   Ev 464 [Institution of Engineering and Technology] Back

29   Ev 416-417 Back

30 Back

31   BERR (2008) 'Meeting the Energy Challenge: A White Paper on Nuclear Power', p 10 Back

32   Health and Safety Executive website, UK Nuclear Regulators New Reactor Assessment, Back

33 Back

34 Back

35 Back

36   Q 174 [Ev 394] Back

37   Q 240 [Ev 404] Back

38   As above. Back

39   Ev 410 [BERR & DIUS]; Ev 454 [RAEng] Back

40   Ev 436 [Cogent & NSAN] Back

41   Ev 438 [Cogent & NSAN]. Cogent, in collaboration with other Sector Skills Councils, Skills Academies and Government bodies, has started a new labour market intelligence survey to update data across the nuclear industry, including new build and capturing the full capability in the nuclear defence sector. Back

42   Nuclear Employers Survey, Cogent, 2005, p ii Back

43   Ev 451 [University of Central Lancashire]; Q 79 [Ev 380] [Clive Smith] Back

44   Ev 454 Back

45   Q 10 [Ev 369] Back

46   Q 94 [Ev 383] Back

47   Q 96 [Ev 383-384] Back

48   Qq 186-187 [Ev 395] Back

49   Ev 419 Back

50   Ev 453 Back

51   Q 243 [Ev 404] Back

52   Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee, First Report of Session 2008-09, Re-skilling for recovery: After Leitch, implementing skills and training policies, HC 48-I, para 98 Back

53   Skills 'gaps' and 'shortages' mean different things to skills specialists. Skills gaps exist when an existing workforce requires additional training: skills shortages require recruitment. Back

54   National Occupational Standards describe what an individual needs to do, know and understand in order to carry out a particular job role or function. Back

55 Back

56   Ev 498 Back

57   Q 239 [Ev 404] Back

58   Q 9 [Ev 369] Back

59   Joint European Torus Back

60   A torus-shaped magnetic chamber Back

61   Q 5 [Ev 369] Back

62   Q 11 [Ev 370] Back

63   Same as above. Back

64   Introduction to Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems and the International Forum, Back

65   Ev 475 [Royal Society] Back

66   Q 266 [Ev 408] Back

67   Ev 426-427 Back

68   Q 35 [Ev 374] Back

69   Q 264 [Ev 408] Back

70   Q 237 [Ev 404] Back

71   Q 245 [Ev 405] Back

72   Qq 255-256 [Ev 406-407] Back

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