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Energy Transitions Research at the University of Cambridge

 

Biography

Tony Roulstone established and teaches on the Nuclear Energy Masters programme in the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge. His research interests are the economics and safety of nuclear power with a focus on Small Modular Reactors. He is leading several SMR research projects in the UK.

He was a visiting Professor of Nuclear Engineering at City University in Hong Kong 2012-2018.

He writes for the technical press on nuclear matters and is leading a group on energy storage needs for the Royal Society Working Group on Energy Storage.

He received his degree from the University of Cambridge and has spent much of his career in the nuclear and aerospace industries, starting with UKAEA working on fast reactor systems and including 20 years at Rolls-Royce where he became Managing Director of the Nuclear Group in 1992. Also, he was the Director of Engineering and Projects when the Vanguard nuclear submarines were being delivered. He has held several corporate Rolls-Royce plc roles in both aero-space engineering and strategic transformation.

He provides consultancy widely in the engineering, technology and services sectors and has completed several policy studies for Government on SMRs, and for politicians on business enterprise and on large-scale procurement.

He is a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, an Associate Member of the Nuclear Institute. He is an independent adviser on SMR design to several companies.

Research

Economics of nuclear power systems

New nuclear power stations are being planned and built around the world after a period in which in many countries in the West no reactors were built. These so called Gen III+ reactors have improved safety and performance attributes, but are very expensive to construct. As over 60% of the lifetime costs of nuclear power stations are committed during the construction phase, these high costs make nuclear energy un-economic when compared with fossil-fuel means of electricity generation. the wide application of nuclear energy requires a radical reduction of capital costs. These will be achieved by a combination of cutting construction time-scales, continuous improvement in construction methods and simplification of reactor systems design. this last aspect requires the rethinking of nuclear licensing approaches that do not recognise cost-benefit analysis and which confuse additional complexity with improved safety.

Safety of nuclear power systems

Both large power reactors and smaller systems designed for either smaller grid or sea transport will not be economic with the current licensing thinking. Licensing in many countries is:

  • Too open ended to enable development and investment to occur with much certainty, inhibiting innovation;
  • Seeks ever more complex approaches to systems design.
 
Different approaches to securing very high level of design and operating safety will be required.
Subject: 
 Tony  Roulstone
Not available for consultancy

Affiliations

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Nuclear Power