UK institute wins £5m nuclear legacy

16 September 2008 – Britain’s bid to tackle a shortage of expertise in the field of nuclear energy has been given a boost after the University of Manchester announced a £5m ($9m) endowment intended to generate millions in new funding.

The grant, from the government-owned British Nuclear Fuels, will pay for new academic staff, who will be expected to multiply the income by attracting further funding from research-hungry business and government, reported the Financial Times.

It comes as the country is seeking to build several new nuclear plants to meet future energy shortfalls. British business is worried that it will lose out on the resulting commercial opportunities because of a shortage of scientific skills.

Richard Lambert, director-general of the CBI employers’ group, recently warned that Britons might be left simply to “pour the concrete” while skilled foreigners do the more complicated work of a potential “industrial renaissance” in the nuclear and other sectors.

But in what can be seen as a rejoinder to Mr Lambert’s warning, Michael Parker, BNFL chief executive, said: “The £5m legacy that BNFL is providing will assist in ensuring that nuclear research in the north-west continues to be rightly at the heart of the global nuclear renaissance.”

The money has been given to the Dalton Nuclear Institute. Paul Howarth, Dalton’s executive director, said he would use it to appoint new professors “one at a time”, and then generate funds from a mixture of government and business contracts to turn each professorship into a self-sustaining operation.