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Home > Stakeholders and Community > Insight - Stakeholder Newsletter > Research is vital – and we need more of it  

Insight Stakeholder Newsletter

Research is vital – and we need more of it

26 October 2012

Stan Gordelier: R&D is so importantLast year, Stan Gordelier, former Head of the Nuclear Development Division of The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Nuclear Energy Agency, became the first independent Chair of the NDA's restructured Research Board. He has more than 40 years experience in the nuclear sector and is a specialist in waste management and decommissioning. 

Let me start with a little personal reflection. I started my professional career with 10 years nuclear energy research. Many years and roles later I spent 15 years in senior positions in waste management and decommissioning. So for me it was a great pleasure to be invited to chair the NDA's Research Board, allowing me to bring these two career ends together. Not only that, of course, but R&D in this area is so important. 

Given the scale of UK liabilities (NDA liabilities alone are currently estimated at around £50 billion in discounted terms), anything that can be done to improve safety and environmental performance and reduce costs is extremely beneficial. 

Research and Development is the key to improvement in each of these areas, and this impacts far more than just clearing up the past. If the UK is to achieve its objective of a significant nuclear contribution to the nation's energy mix again, we must demonstrate effective management capability for the new liabilities that will arise. 

In this context it is important to emphasise that the Research Board, while focused on the NDA mission, now also takes a wider view across the UK as a whole to help ensure alignment. Our responsibilities cover the legacy facilities that form the core of the NDA's mission, together with the current fleet of still-generating plants and defence-related facilities. Our interests also extend to decommissioning the next generation of nuclear plants that support the Government's long-term vision for UK energy provision. 

Our intent is to ensure that the right work is carried out, with funding focused on areas of greatest priority, bringing together the diverse but individual strands of research that have hitherto been conducted independently. 

When, after my second period on the UKAEA Board, I left the UK to work with the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency in Paris, there was no such linkage. On my return, it is a great pleasure to see how this has been immensely improved by the Board and the work of the Nuclear Waste Research Forum. 

This new approach for the UK is in line with the conclusions of last year's hard-hitting House of Lords report, which recommended that more must be done to develop a long-term strategy for nuclear R&D, including a roadmap to close research gaps and re-establish the UK's international credentials. 

The report noted that the UK's existing strengths were based on past investments that would soon be depleted as many experts reach the end of their careers. We are fully aware of this and are keen to inspire new blood into R&D, building a generation of experts who will play an important role in ensuring that the UK remains a vital player in the global nuclear industry, supporting job creation and reducing our reliance on imported technology. 

The Board, originally formed in 2006, was restructured in 2011 to include representatives from all across the UK nuclear sector and the international community, in recognition of its much strengthened remit. It is a measure of its important role, and the high reputation of the NDA, that all of those invited to be members accepted the invitation. Let me finish by expressing my sincere thanks to those members for their help and support in this important work.