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IBM Survey: UK Public open to nuclear but want more information

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LONDON, UK - 08 Feb 2010: Consumer acceptance of nuclear power as a viable alternative energy source is on the increase according to a recent survey by IBM (IBM: NYSE) into consumer attitudes to nuclear power. Two thirds of consumers polled in the survey supported a greater nuclear capability if it meant that the risk of losing energy supplies was greatly reduced. However, the same consumers polled are currently unwilling to absorb the extra cost incurred by the development of the plants – only one in five respondents expressed a willingness to pay more, even in order to reduce carbon emissions. 

The independent survey, carried out during November 2009, polled 2000 consumers in the UK following the publication of the UK Government’s draft National Policy Statement for Energy which is part of its plan to facilitate a new nuclear build programme in the UK. The Statement confirmed the UK needs to invest in new generating capacity to ensure adequate electricity supplies and reduced carbon emissions with nuclear power making a significant contribution. However, the expectation is on the nuclear industry to take the lead in bringing proposals to market and shoulder the majority of the risk for each project, including funding the design, construction, operation and eventual decommissioning of each nuclear power station.

Further results from the IBM survey have proved surprising. While there is general acceptance of nuclear power as an alternative power source, nearly 75% of consumers polled believed that the case for new nuclear power hasn’t been delivered with any great clarity despite publication of the National Policy Statement for Energy. Those in the youngest group, aged 18-24 years old, are least convinced that there is a requirement for new nuclear power stations given other renewable sources of energy such as wind, wave and solar. At present nearly twice as many people surveyed rate public consultation ahead of ensuring the plants are built on time - 47% compared to 24% .

This supports views expressed at the recent IBM Nuclear Industry Forum held in December 2009. Leaders and influencers from across the industry discussed the need to communicate and share information, securely, safely and in timely fashion with the public, the regulators, and the supply chain, using a variety of tools and channels.

Steve Hornsby, Nuclear Power Lead, IBM Global Business Services UK & Ireland, commented “The IBM survey demonstrates that the UK public is open to the idea of nuclear power as an alternative power source. However, there is still a lack of communication as to the needs for and the implications of a new-build programme. Consumer perceptions are not yet aligned with the industry’s plans.”

“At the same time, we are talking to companies around the world about the nuclear renaissance - nearly 400 nuclear power stations being built, planned or proposed, with over 30 countries progressing or exploring the use of nuclear power. As a result, the UK faces competition with other countries for resources– people, equipment and expertise.” Hornsby continued, “At IBM, we see nuclear as an important part of a diverse energy portfolio. In the 20 years since the last significant new nuclear build, the world has become much more instrumented, interconnected and intelligent. The application of advanced technology and business processes can enable the industry to become smarter. In an era where the UK industry will be fighting for resources, this capability is key if the UK is to be at the centre of a global smarter energy revolution.”

The survey findings suggest that attitudes to nuclear have changed over the years as around half of the consumers polled believe that nuclear power is a safe form of energy and 65% see it as inevitable that the UK will rely more on nuclear power in the future. Further results demonstrate the importance of the environment to the man-on-the-street. The consumers surveyed were keen to take action on curbing carbon emissions – 33% felt it is essential, while over 70% replied positively to this point. Over a third of Britons polled feel it’s very important to make significant reductions in carbon (38%) with over 77% replying positively.

Only one third of the public surveyed feel any drawbacks they see outweigh the UK employment opportunities created by a build programme. A previous IBM study in 2005 looked at the capacity and capability of the UK supply chain and concluded that up to 70% of the new plants could be provided by the UK. To help maintain public support, participants in the industry should focus on effectively managing their people, supply chains and programmes. The IBM Nuclear Industry Forum also highlighted the need to recruit, develop and retain a skilled workforce to deliver the nuclear build programme.

With new forms of renewable energy, new ways of monitoring and managing the energy networks the UK is facing a time of unprecedented opportunity to deliver smarter energy. The challenges faced, from environmental concerns to ageing infrastructure, are extremely complex yet interconnected across all levels of the energy system. IBM considers it important that the UK takes this opportunity to work smarter, improving the energy system making it more sustainable and efficient through effective smarter management.

IBM’s contribution to the nuclear renaissance

IBM’s recently issued point of view paper on the proposed UK nuclear programme, sets out how many of the issues raised in the survey could be addressed and builds on the experience gained from IBM Global Centres of Excellence for Nuclear Power, established in France and China. The paper, launched at the Nuclear Industry Forum, summarises potential approaches to addressing the following industry challenges:

· Building an effective delivery organisation and programme

· Delivering the new stations to appropriate standards, on time and to budget

· Operating the plants safely to ensuring adequate financial returns

· Planning for decommissioning and optimising whole life costs

Ultimately, application of Smarter Solutions could give operators the ability to develop and grow a skilled and motivated workforce, manage the construction programme on time, operate plants efficiently and safely while exploiting technology to build and operate the digital nuclear plant. This may potentially reduce any cost impact on the UK consumer of achieving both security of supply and reduction in carbon emissions. 

For information on IBM and Smart Energy:

For information on the IBM point of view on the Nuclear industry:

Notes to editor:

· IBM works with the Utilities industry and the associated supply chain for materials and services, and has done so for many years, providing consulting, systems integration and technology solutions to nuclear clients around the world.

· IBM’s “Smarter Nuclear” solutions such as training, simulation and collaboration tools, sophisticated sensor networks, deep computing and analytics are designed to enable the industry to be Smarter in Design, Programme Delivery, Plant Operation and Asset Maintenance.

· IBM recently held an IBM Nuclear Industry Forum in early December, attended by influencers and leaders from across the industry.

· During the Forum, the public’s uncertainty was reflected in concerns that the proposed streamlined planning process for major projects such as nuclear power stations may not be effective and the potential impact of political changes upon the programme. In relation to the apparent consumer’s reluctance to pay more to reduce carbon emissions, was the need for further clarity on the long term carbon pricing arrangements.

· Participants discussed how the industry can exploit modern and proven approaches, tools and technologies to design, build, operate and maintain the plants to the required rigorous safely and quality standards and also on time and budget.

· Participants at the Forum felt there was an opportunity to learn lessons and apply proven approaches from other industries, both with respect to how to effectively manage major projects and in the use of modern technology. Given the nature of the industry, such innovation was more likely to be introduced in an incremental fashion.

· Specific examples of smarter solutions given at the Forum included:
· using High Performance Computers to model nuclear reactors to support continued safe operation
· providing “collaborative environments” to share design information amongst participants
· using advanced simulations to visualise and plan work in advance to minimise risk and increase staff capability and confidence
· using innovative training methods and mechanisms for capturing learning
· implementing the latest generation of asset management systems so that predictive maintenance can be carried out safely, efficiently and effectively
· providing high reliability underpinning infrastructure and business support services

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