The University of Manchester's Dalton Nuclear Institute is creating a £20 million nuclear research and teaching project.

The University of Manchester’s Dalton Nuclear Institute is creating a ?20 million nuclear research and teaching project, hoping to make the UK a world-leading nuclear nation.

The research facility’s main objective will be to support the nuclear decommissioning authority (NDA) in running the UK’s decommissioning programme. 

Richard Clegg, director of the Dalton Nuclear Institute said the new centre will act as a sister to Sellafield’s main ?250 million technology site, which he describes as having ’without any hesitation some of the best laboratory facilities in the world’. Academic researchers will base themselves at the centre, and students will be taught both there and at Manchester.

New staff will be recruited from abroad or from industry. ’We’re trying to rebuild UK [nuclear] capability,’ said Clegg, ’if we were just to relocate a professor from an existing UK university that’s of no net benefit to the UK.’ 

The NDA and the University of Manchester have each invested ?10 million in the project, which will not only focus on decommissioning and nuclear clean up, but also on nuclear power, naval propulsion and a possible fusion programme. ’It’s going to be the job of the institute to be responsive to how government policy evolves to make sure the institute then can support who ever wants to commission work,’ said Clegg.

News of the research centre coincided with accusations from the UK parliament’s science and technology committee that the government is on a ’charm offensive’ to persuade the public that carbon capture and storage, not nuclear power, will top the agenda for meeting its environmental objectives. 

Malcolm Wicks, minister of state for energy, told the committee that ’Only the foolish person would have one favourite technology. In order to meet the energy supply requirements and the fundamental challenge of climate change we will need a range of instruments, and within that context we are very, very interested in carbon capture and storage.’ Wicks did not rule out nuclear power.

Clegg says the government has no choice but to reinvest in nuclear build. ’We are approaching an energy crunch in the UK,’ he said, as the government reviews its energy policy. Katharine Sanderson