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Nuclear skills shortage prompts competition for skills

The Government is rushing forward a new generation of nuclear power stations without properly assessing the level of skills or components available in the industry, consultants warned this week.
Although proposals by government to pre-licence nuclear power station designs have been generally welcomed by industry, there is still major concern over the industry's ability to deliver.Atkins nuclear expert Keith Carter said nuclear skills were already under-represented and said that any attempt to speed up the design process would increase the pressure.'Expertise has already left, as we have been without new nuclear build 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 designs. This would accelerate the build process, as designs would not need to be approved site-by-site, streamlining the planning procedure.A new planning white paper is also under consultation and expected to further accelerate the planning process.However, Atkins director within its nuclear and power division, Christophe Junillon, said that the critical factor would be the availablility of components for new facilities.'Nobody is looking at designing in the old way now - we are looking at buying off-the-shelf, so you do not need quite the breadth of skills,' he said.'The limiting factor is on manufacturing - world capacity is limited and key components would be constrained,' Junillon added. 'You would need large-scale components in any new build, and this can only be done in an handfull of foundaries.'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 properly redesign facilities in response to the new terror climate.Presenting a paper on behalf of the Sizewell Stakeholder Group highlighting terrorist threats to current and new nuclear build, he pointed out that pressing ahead risked increasing the security risk around nuclear power plants.

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