Professor Francis Livens, Professor of Radiochemistry, Director of Dalton Institute, The University of Manchester. For a sector which has the reputation of being conservative and resistant to change, the nuclear industry is evolving fast. Over the last 15 years, the UK has embarked on a massive £115 billion, 120-year clean-up programme, dealing with its legacy from 70 years of industrial nuclear energy, many of the first generation of nuclear nations such as the USA and Germany are moving away from nuclear power, while later entrants, mainly in the Far East, are building reactors as fast as they can. Proponents of nuclear power are looking to new, smaller reactor concepts which might be deployed in novel ways, for example, to provide industrial process heat as well as electricity, or to power a remote community which is isolated from the grid. Everyone accepts that nuclear, which has become synonymous in many countries with ‘over time and over budget’, has to change. Manchester, the University where Rutherford demonstrated the first nuclear reaction 101 years ago, and which has a long history of nuclear research, remains fully involved in this complex world. We are just starting to explore the potential of robots and artificial intelligence to change the nuclear sector. Robots can go into dangerous places and Manchester leads a major nuclear robotics project.
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