Golden Egg or Poisoned Chalice? The story of nuclear power in the UK

Tony Wooldridge

The UK lays claim to being the first country to produce electricity from nuclear power on a commercial scale and has often ploughed its own furrow, initially choosing indigenous reactor designs rather than following international trends. What are the reasons underlying the erratic development of nuclear power in the UK and what lessons can be learned for future policy decisions, whether in the UK or elsewhere, where infrastructure projects with long-term effects are concerned?

In this talk Tony explains how two key organisations, the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and the Central Electricity Generating Board, evolved over time and the how key individuals played a pivotal role. This talk discusses the non-technical and technical reasons for the long delay before the UK adopted the Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) design, and the roles played by some key figures in securing acceptance of the claimed reliability for the integrity of the reactor pressure vessel.

Tony will then outline the changes in politics, policies and public attitudes occurring over the 30- year period between the Sizewell B public inquiry report (1986) leading to the approval in 2016 for the next UK nuclear power station – an EPR at Hinkley Point C.

Tony will also discuss some of the other options for reactor designs that might be adopted should there be a continued revival of the nuclear programme in the UK such as Small Modular Reactor (SMR) and fusion.

Tony Wooldridge
Mr Tony Wooldridge gained a First Class Honours Degree in Physics from the University of Oxford in 1973.
In 1977, he joined the electricity supply industry to undertake research and development at the Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) Applications Centre in Manchester. Subsequently, he has held a range of technical and management positions in the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) and its successor companies.

He was President of the British Institute of NDT during 2005 and 2006. In 2009 he joined the nuclear regulator (NII) and assessed the designs for new nuclear plant in the UK, particularly the EPR planned for Hinkley Point C. He is a Chartered Engineer and Chartered Physicist, a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and a Fellow of the British Institute of NDT.

Tony recently co-authored a book on the topic with Stephen Druce.

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