Manchester forms nuclear bond

March 21, 2003

British Nuclear Fuels Limited is aiming to re-energise interest in nuclear science with a £2 million university research alliance.

BNFL has signed a contract for a research partnership with the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology and the University of Manchester.

The alliance builds on the success of similar BNFL nuclear research centres at the universities of Leeds and Sheffield.

A BNFL spokeswoman said: "One of the things BNFL recognised some time ago was that there is a large number of experts in universities that we can tap into. In this way we gain access to their research facilities and the people who may be part of the nuclear industry in the future."

This alliance coincides with the government's announcement in last month's energy white paper that no new nuclear power stations will be built in the UK in the foreseeable future.

BNFL admits that a more positive signal from the government would have been helpful in attracting scientists to the industry, which has been suffering from severe skills shortages for some time.

But it stresses there is still room for considerable growth in the industry owing to the need for the decommissioning of existing power stations and the clean-up of nuclear waste.

The spokeswoman said: "There is a real need to underpin the nuclear skills base in the UK. We are trying to rejuvenate the science sector."

The new alliance will focus on materials performance, examining issues such as how the materials used in a nuclear reactor perform under different conditions.

BNFL hopes the universities will establish links with the best engineers and scientists in other countries. The aim is to create a global network, with BNFL and the alliance at its centre.

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