Plenary Paper – Book Launch: Golden Egg or Poisoned Chalice?: The Story of Nuclear Power in the UK

A Wooldridge and S Druce 

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, but now willing to consider any design that can satisfy legislative requirements. 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?

This book tries to unravel the factors that have influenced policy decisions, using original sources where possible. The story is fascinating: secrecy in the early years, unbalanced institutional and commercial influences on government, powerful personalities, national pride, short-sighted political considerations and external events have all played a part. The book starts with the post-war military developments and covers all the main nuclear power activities up to the present day, including generation, reprocessing, decommissioning and waste disposal.

Whether one is enthusiastic or sceptical about nuclear power, this book provides an objective review of past policies and decisions and provides essential background for all those interested in the future of the industry, both members of the public and those more directly involved.

Although this is not a book about NDT, the nuclear industry relies heavily on high quality NDT, so much so that one of the major policy decisions in the UK – the adoption of the PWR – would not have been possible without demonstrable improvements in ultrasonic inspection which made the UK a world leader in this area.