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Nuclear power programme could hit skills shortage

The Government is rushing forward a new generation of nuclear power stations without properly assessing the availability of skills or components, consultants warned this week.
Government proposals to pre-licence nuclear power station designs have been generally welcomed by industry. But there are still strong concerns about the industry's ability to deliver.Atkins' nuclear expert Keith Carter said there was already a shortage of nuclear power station design and construction skills. He warned that attempts to speed up the design process would increase pressure on these resources.'Expertise has already left, as we have been without a new nuclear build programme for such a long time,' he said. 'I would not be at all surprised if we would have to turn to France to supply us with expertise.'Last week the government announced it had opened the pre-licensing approval process for new nuclear power station designs. This would accelerate the planning process, as designs would not need to be approved site-by-site.A new planning White Paper is also under consultation and expected to accelerate the planning process even more.However, Atkins' nuclear and power director, Christophe Junillon, said the critical factor would be component availability for new facilities. 'Nobody is looking at designing in the old way now - we are looking at buying off-theshelf, so you do not need quite the breadth of skills,' he said.'The limiting factor is manufacturing - world capacity is limited and [the availability of] key components would be constrained,' Junillon added.'You would need large-scale components in any new build, and this can only be done in a handful of foundries.'Consultant and outspoken critic of nuclear power, John Large, added that the lack of available skills meant it would take the nuclear industry at least 10 years to redesign facilities with anti-terrorism measures.He pointed out that pressing ahead with a new build programme could increase the security risk around nuclearpower plants.

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