The UK’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), supported by four other governmental departments, has launched two studies into future requirements for nuclear skills. The studies come against a background of growing interest in the long-term future of the nuclear industry (see NEI March 2002, p24 or see links below).

The DTI has commissioned a skills audit of the nuclear industry’s demands and its ability to meet them, as well as a foresight study that aims to predict the shape of the industry. The skills audit is to be completed by the end of this month, with the foresight report due in May. Ranging from nuclear clean-up to medical radiotherapy and general industrial use of radiation-based technology, the studies will be split into two phases and coordinated by an interdepartmental nuclear skills group.

A report on both studies is due to be published in May. This will serve as a “foundation for a ‘stimulation’ phase”, designed to attract “new blood” into the industry, and to expand education programmes to develop the necessary skills.

Energy minister Brian Wilson said: “The studies that we’re undertaking will provide the basis for a targeted action plan to ensure that this country has the right skill sets, in the right numbers within the right timescale. The key issue for the future is to ensure that the UK has the capability to exploit technologies using radiation in healthcare, defence and other sectors, as well as ensuring the protection of existing nuclear plant and decommissioning activities.” The studies aim to address the findings of an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report, published in 2000, on the state of nuclear education. The report called for greater cooperation between industry and research institutes to attract young people.