EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Nuclear Fission- Next Generation Nuclear

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Chemistry


In UK Energy strategy, nuclear fission is growing rapidly in significance. Government's recent Nuclear Industrial Strategy states clearly that the UK should retain the option to deploy a range of nuclear fission technologies in the decades ahead, and that it should underpin the skill base to do so. The primary aim of Next Generation Nuclear is to provide high quality research training in the science and engineering underpinning nuclear fission technology, focused particularly on developing a multi-scale (from molecular to macroscopic), multi-disciplined understanding of key processes and systems. Nuclear fission research underpins strategic UK priorities, including the safe management of the historic nuclear legacy, securing future low carbon energy resources, and supporting UK defence and security policies. It has become clear that skills are very likely to limit the UK's nuclear capacity, with over half of the civil nuclear workforce and 70% of Subject Matter Experts due to retire by 2025. High level R&D skills are therefore on the critical path for all the UK's nuclear ambitions and, because of the 10-15 year lead time needed to address this shortage, urgent action is needed now.

Next Generation Nuclear is a collaborative CDT involving the Universities of Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield, which aims to develop the next generation of nuclear research leaders and deliver underpinning (Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 1-3), long term science and engineering to meet the national priorities identified in Government's Nuclear Industrial Vision. Its scope complements the Nuclear IDC (TRL 4-6), with both Centres aiming to work together and exploit potential synergies. In collaboration with key nuclear industry partners, Next Generation Nuclear will build on the very successful Nuclear First programme to deliver a high quality training programme tailored to student needs; high profile, high impact outreach; and adventurous doctoral research which underpins real industry challenges.

Planned Impact

We envisage three distinct strands of outreach and impact from Next Generation Nuclear. We will enage with:

1. The User Community. One of our most significant impacts will be to create the next generation of nuclear research leaders. and we will achieve this by carefully matching student experience with user needs. Close integration of users into the Next Generation Nuclear CDT through the taught programme, Masterclasses, secondments, CDT School, and industrial cosupervision of PhD projects will provide numerous opportunities to achieve this. We will also continue Nuclear First's interactions with specific potential employers and employer groups, which have included Sellafield Ltd, the Nuclear Waste Research Forum and AWE Aldermaston, and look to broaden these contacts through the Next Generation Nuclear Steering Group.

All NGN academics are extensively engaged with the user community at a technical level. Collectively, we have provided advice, review and technical support across the nuclear arena in the UK (e.g. NDA, RWMD, most NDA Site Licence Companies, EDF, Rolls-Royce, AWE, regulators) as well as to key players overseas (e.g. NNSA, CEA, FZ Juelich). We will use the extensive contacts with users which NGN will foster to gain a better understanding of the challenges which the user community faces, and to engage the academic community more widely in helping address them.

2. Policy and Strategy Development. NGN academics provide input and expert advice across UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments, and also to the key actors in the nuclear industry. This includes activities such as assistance with formulating policy and strategy, and independent review. Becoming involved in such activities is often fairly haphazard and there is much untapped capability in the wider NGN academic community. We will take advantage of the diversity of the NGN academics and the networks between them to develop a 'community of practice' in this area, creating opportunities for younger academics and supporting them in becoming involved in policy and strategy in order to widen the pool and improve the quality and diversity of advice available.

3. The Wider Public. We will have an active programme of public engagement which we will coordinate with activities of other nuclear CDTs. This will build on the work done by Nuclear First which was 'Highly Commended' at the 2012 Energy Institute Awards. In engaging with the wider public, we will continue our general approach by using Next Generation Nuclear as a focus for a series of high quality, relatively large, high impact events, for example the Cheltenham Science Festival, Big Bang Science Fair, MOSI Meet the Nuclear Scientists. These activities will be coordinated with outreach activities from other large projects in which the Next Generation Nuclear consortium members are involved.


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