Nuclear R & D loses steam

While climate change is forcing governments to think again about nuclear power, most countries have curtailed funding of nuclear research and development.

Germany made the biggest cuts in R&D funding; according to the index that has been normalised at 1 to help comparisons, German R&D fell six points to about 0.3 between 1985 and 1988, and to nearly zero by 2005. In the UK, too, the drop in funding has been steep, particularly between 1985 and 1995, when it fell from just over 0.9 to nearly zero, where it stands today. The US substantially decreased funding between 1985 and 2000, and although it crept up from 0.2 to 0.4 between 2000-2005, it was still below the norm.

Funding has been relatively consistent in France, if less generous than it was twenty years ago.

The one exception to the trend is Japan, where government financing remains slightly above the norm, despite a dip in funding in 1988.

But governments must not only think about their investment in R&D, they must also find ways to replenish a highly skilled workforce whose senior members, trained in the 1960s and 1970s, are retiring.

According to a report by the American Nuclear Society, professionals in the field already complain of a significant shortage of qualified nuclear science and engineering graduates (see also an article by Barry Kaufer).

Nuclear Energy Outlook 2008 is available at

Also see : Nuclear Energy Agency

ISBN 978-92-64-05410-3


©OECD Observer No. 272, April 2009

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