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Energy Transitions Research at the University of Cambridge



Following a degree in engineering at Cambridge, he was trained as an officer in the British Army and served in Germany and Northern Ireland, before leaving to join the UKAEA working on fast reactor developments at Dounreay in the North of Scotland.

He then spent 20 years with Rolls-Royce. Initially, this was as an engineer in nuclear submarine propulsion and later as the Engineering Director, at the time when the new nuclear reactor for the Vanguard class of submarines was being tested, produced and delivered.

Moving to the Aerospace section of Rolls-Royce in 1990, he led the engineering teams responsible for all the engine controls systems of their civil and military engines. During this time these systems moved from being largely mechanical in nature to being computer controlled and software based.

In the mid 1990s, he became MD of the nuclear group of companies and ran and developed the group for 5 years. This group included businesses that served both civil and military nuclear programmes mainly in the UK as well as broader combustion boilers and specialist mechanical equipment world-wide.

For the final period in Rolls-Royce, he led an ambitious business efficiency and change programme for the whole company covering aerospace and industrial power groups located both in the UK, US and around the world. For the last 10 years, he has been working as an independent business consultant for large international companies in the areas of strategy, business change and the management of large programmes.

As the UK has re-discovered the merits of nuclear energy over recent years, he has been doing more consulting in the nuclear sector. During the last six months, he has worked with members of the University of Cambridge to construct and promote a new taught masters course (MPhil) in Nuclear Energy. The course aims to train a new generation of engineers, scientists and managers for the emerging nuclear renaissance in the UK and around the world,

The course will be located in the Department of Engineering but run in conjunction with, and with the support of the Departments of Materials Science & Metallurgy, Physics and Earth Sciences and the Judge Business School.

It is planned that he will be the inaugural Course Director for the MPhil in Nuclear Energy.


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.
 Tony  Roulstone
Not available for consultancy


Departments and institutes: 
Person keywords: 
Nuclear Power