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Nuclear Engineering Technical Network comment on the UK Government energy white paper “Powering our Net Zero Future”

By Barry Brooks, Member, Nuclear Engineering Technical Network Committee

This follows a joint-PEI submission to the Government in September on engineering priorities.

The National Engineering Policy Centre (NEPC) led by RAEng, with the IET and the other PEIs, submitted recommendations to the UK Government in September 2020 in “Engineering a resilient and sustainable future” to inform the then expected 2020 Spending Review, emphasising the need for support on net zero, innovation, education and skills, and infrastructure. 

Powering our Net Zero Future (Pages 48-51) confirms the Government’s commitment to nuclear power (subject to conditions), including Hinkley Point C; one further large-scale project; investment in Small Modular Reactors (SMRs); research into Advanced Modular Reactors (AMRs), and ongoing support for fusion (the UK’s Spherical Tokomak for Energy Production - STEP).

It is also very good news for IET members working across all sectors interested in careers in this growing nuclear sector. The most exciting news is the long-awaited commitment to the proposed SMR programme being developed by the UK SMR consortium (Assystem, Atkins, BAM Nuttall, Jacobs, Laing O’Rourke, National Nuclear Laboratory, Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, Rolls-Royce and TWI).  Whilst this refreshed commitment to nuclear power is welcome, it comes after a long period of uncertainty; so, there is a lot to do to maintain momentum. The new work requires a wide range of engineering skills across all disciplines. This is an opportunity for the IET to encourage education and training providers to build a pipeline to meet the growing demand. For instance, the SMR programme alone is likely to need over 40,000 jobs over the next 15 years, with around half that number for subsequent manufacture and long-term support of the UK SMR fleet, including internationally.

If you would like to know more, come along (virtually) to our 8th Nuclear Conference taking place between 24-25 March 2021. An update on advanced nuclear technologies, the SMR programme, HPC, cybersecurity, the importance of human factors, and assurance in the nuclear sector will all be covered.  

Get involved

All of these issues are being tackled by sub-groups of the IET Nuclear Engineering Technical Network but we need more volunteers, so please consider joining the technical network and get involved – you will learn more about the issues and you can make a difference to yours, and others’ future careers.