THE UK nuclear industry should stop pushing to build new reactors and instead focus its attention on the £80bn worth of decommissioning work to be undertaken, director of environmental pressure group Friends of the Earth, Charles Secrett, said last week.
But Secrett warned that the nuclear industry will struggle to recruit the large numbers of new engineers needed for the task.
Just one UK university offers a course in nuclear engineering and many former nuclear industry employees have retired or left to work in other sectors.
Secrett, speaking at the British Nuclear Energy Society conference on UK Waste, said decommissioning will provide a growing workload for civil and nuclear engineers over the course of this century. This is in contrast to construction of new nuclear power reactors, which would require a radical turnaround in political attitudes.
Although the government is widely expected to agree in principle to construction of new reactors, the economic and environmental cases against them are still very strong. It would be almost impossible for nuclear new build to rival decommissioning in terms of value or longevity, Secrett claimed.
Decommissioning defunct nuclear infrastructure has political importance, because of its grave economic and environmental implications, he added.