Lords: ageing workforce threat to nuclear ambitions

The government's reliance on nuclear power to meet up to half of UK power demand by 2050 could come unstuck because of a lack of expertise in the industry, a select committee has warned.

Nuclear: 'lack of expertise'
Nuclear: 'lack of expertise'
A House of Lords science and technology select committee report out today accuses ministers of complacency over the nuclear industry’s capacity to grow on the scale required if it is to contribute to UK energy needs and play a part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The committee said that many of Britain’s nuclear experts are nearing retirement age and are not being replaced. "As a result, we are in danger of placing ourselves in a position where we will be unable to ensure a safe and secure supply of nuclear energy up to 2050," said committee chairman Lord Krebs

The report calls on government to set up a long-term strategy for the sector, including support for research and development work. It advises ministers to set up an independent board drawn from industry, academia and government to improve coordination.

Krebs said the government should take steps now to ensure that there is a new generation of experts, together with research and development activity in areas such as radioactive waste disposal, to keep the nuclear programme on track. "Without action now, in our view, the government’s nuclear energy policy simply lacks credibility," he said.

Nuclear power currently provides around 12GW, or 16 per cent, of UK power supplies. The committee pointed to estimates that 20GW to 38GW of nuclear capacity is likely to be needed if the UK is to secure an 80 per cent reduction in 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, in line with international targets.

Nuclear Research and Development Capacities can be read here.

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