This week heralded the University of Manchester’s bold strides into the province of nuclear research with the launch of a major University nuclear centre, Research Centre for Radwaste and Decommissioning, and the handover of a new prodigious nuclear research facility, the Dalton Cumbrian Facility (DCF), from the Principal Contractor, Morgan Sindall. Such avant-garde advances are the result of a joint £20 million investment from the University of Manchester and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). The site in West Cumbria will serve as the research base for the UoM’s Dalton Nuclear Institute.
The DCF is intended to build on West Cumbria’s prolific skills infrastructure, transferring knowledge to the industry through expanding the nuclear research capabilities of the UK’s already enviable university sector. Through the DCF, the University has privileged access to the National Nuclear Laboratory’s extensive engineering facilities, situated on the Sellafield site.
Professor Andrew Sherry, Director of the DCF, said the site will “integrate with other facilities in the North of England to establish a truly unique and world-leading capability”, thus positioning it as an internationally renowned fertile source of discovery.
The DCF is expected to be fully functioning by 2012. The facility is anticipated to become a veritable polestar of nuclear advancements, with preeminent academics expected from across the UK and overseas, all striving to expand the intellectual repertoire and prestige of the site.
Nuclear technology is becoming increasingly important to the UK energy sector, concomitant with the drive for reduced carbon emissions. Such support for nuclear research in the UK is welcomed by the industry, which has been affected by reduced demand from Japan for nuclear waste recycling. Both Japan and Germany are now searching for an answer to global energy needs away from the alluring zero-carbon emissions of nuclear power, due to safety concerns wrought by the Fukushima disaster. However, the UK’s recent report into nuclear safety concluded otherwise.
The UK’s chief nuclear inspector, Dr. Mike Weightman affirmed, “I remain confident that our UK nuclear facilities have no fundamental safety weaknesses”. The UK government continues to promote and streamline the process for the private sector to invest in nuclear energy, and the University of Manchester’s future involvement in progress appears most pioneering, aspiring and is backed by a formidable ambition.