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[cdn-nucl-l] Staff crisis in UK nuclear industry
Posted in the UK Herald on April 15, 2003 and at:
See www.iync.org to hear what's being done to get youth involved, and please
let me know if you'd like to help out or take part.
Local Chair, IYNC2004
May 9-14, 2003
Staff crisis in nuclear industry
IT is unlikely to be the first suggestion on a career adviser's list - but
the search is on to stave off a "worrying" shortage of nuclear physicists.
The department of trade and industry has been touring Scotland and the north
of England, in a recruitment drive for an expert team that will one day take
over the job of clearing up Britain's radioactive waste.
Unless they can plug the skills gap, it is feared the decontamination of
plants like Dounreay will take longer, and new ways to speed the degradation
of radioactive materials, which take hundreds of thousands of years to break
down, may not be found. Over time security could fail, increasing the risk
of the material being sold to terrorists.
The recruitment drive could see experts visiting primary schools to talk
about pupils' perceptions of the industry and how risks are managed.
As a first step, Tony Coverdale, project manager for the DTI's nuclear
skills study, has been giving talks to organisations in Glasgow and
Edinburgh in the past fortnight to alert them to the problem.
According to his research, Britain has a shortage of 3000 nuclear
specialists, including those needed to manage radiotherapy and similar
The age profile of the current workforce means that 22,600 workers will
retire from the sector within 15 years, and because more staff will be
needed to clean up decommissioned plants a total of 28,400 extra technicians
will be required by 2017.
This means about 1000 new graduates and 1000 new technicians will be needed
by the nuclear industry annually. But the number of teenagers choosing to
studying physics and engineering is falling.
Mr Coverdale, who spoke at Glasgow University on Thursday, said: "The way
numbers are growing, within five to 10 years there could be as few as 10,000
students starting on science and engineering courses. If we need 1000 that
is a tenth of them. When you put it in that context, it is worrying."
The health and renewable energy sectors, the oil and offshore gas industry,
and the rail industry will all be competing to recruit the same graduates,
according to Mr Coverdale.
He said the sectors had to work together to stimulate interest in science
and engineering among primary school pupils. This would mean combating
perceptions that nuclear physics is a dangerous and controversial area.
Dr David Ireland, of Glasgow University's nuclear physics research group,
said they already had a job to find graduate researchers, as other branches
of science were more popular.
Over the next 20 years, four Scottish nuclear power stations will reach the
end of their working life.
Dr Ireland said we should train our own experts to decontaminate them rather
than pay for overseas crews to tackle the problem. Then we could export the
expertise to other countries.
Dr Dan Barlow, head of research for Friends of the Earth Scotland, said:
"Physicists and politicians got us into this mess with nuclear waste. We
think there is still a job for politicians and a new breed of physicists to
get us out of it."
- April 15th