The Royal Academy of Engineering has urged the government to invest in training of nuclear engineers to ensure that its newly unveiled nuclear submarine programme can be built in the UK.
As the government published its defence White Paper, Royal Academy chief executive Philip Greenish warned the government that such skills could decline unless the submarines are built in the UK.'If we are to maintain the UK's defence and civil nuclear capabilities we must increase the level of investment for education and training in nuclear engineering and safety,' said Greenish. 'We also need to recognise the interdependence of universities, the civil nuclear industry and defence establishments. Over the past 20 years there has been a massive reduction in research and development in the civil nuclear sector. This has reduced the availability of skilled workers for both the civil and military nuclear sectors - particularly in the area of reactor technology.'The skills needed for the design, build, operation and disposal of naval nuclear propulsion plant are therefore in short supply and expensive, but it is not too late to reverse this process. We need to educate, invest and increase the pool of skilled workers in the nuclear industry.'He added: 'The proposed new submarine fleet should be built domestically. The contracting out of the design and building of submarines in the 1990s, together with a gap in the submarine programme, resulted in a major loss of skills. Building the Navy's submarine fleet abroad could undermine the nation's ability to maintain a nuclear submarine programme in the future. Continuity of both design teams and construction in the UK is crucial if major cost overruns and delays are to be avoided.'