Nuclear industry in the UK: Back to the future?

By Claire Carter, Research Assistant for Policy@Sussex

In the 50th anniversary year of SPRU (Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex), Dr Phil Johnstone looks at the history of its research in the UK nuclear sector.

In light of the government’s recent go-ahead for the controversial Hinkley power station – and a commitment to allocating 50% of its energy research to nuclear over the next five years – Dr Johnstone’s report comes at a pivotal time.

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Dr Johnstone argues that history is in danger of repeating itself, with plans in the UK to build at least three new reactor types, as well as plans for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) that are commercially unproven. Nuclear economics has always been a hotly debated topic for SPRU’s Professor Gordon MacKerron, who was critical of the government’s optimistic cost appraisals for nuclear new builds in the 1980s and 1990s. Professor MacKerron explains that increases in costs, due to more complex reactor design and higher safety standards, are not offset by cost reductions achieved through experience. Read more ›

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Posted in Energy and Environment

Industry collaboration and consumer pressure key to stopping ‘conflict minerals’ trade

Responsible sourcing of raw minerals from conflict regions could be achieved if firms were to collaborate and if there was more pressure from consumers.

Research by Constantin Blome, Professor of Operations Management at the University of Sussex, has found that simple measures such as companies developing and sharing lists of certified smelter and refineries could make a big impact in the global drive to stop profits from mineral trade falling into the hands of armed groups.

mineral 2More than five years after international efforts to reduce trade in conflict resources through the the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (US) and the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas (global), Professor Blome’s research on ‘Stopping conflict minerals with the OECD Guidance for responsible mineral supply chains: Status Quo in Europe’ reveals not only that few firms are fully implementing the OECD Guidance, but why.

Certainly, cost is not an issue. The study found that while the cost of implementing the guidance is higher for small firms, the average cost is 0.0002% of annual sales. Moreover the research found that firms will benefit if they source minerals responsibly by enhancing their reputation, improving investor relationships and better risk management.

Read more ›

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Posted in Trade Policy

The Policy@Sussex initiative

Policy@Sussex is a bridge between policy relevant social science research across several departments of the University of Sussex and the policy makers, influencers and shapers who act on evidence. A strong interdisciplinary approach and rigorous academic research offers innovative insights on current policy challenges.

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Posted in About Policy@Sussex

Supporting cultural change to improve equality and diversity in Higher Education

In September 2015, Business Secretary Sajid Javid asked Universities UK to investigate ‘lad culture’ and violence against women, with a focus on creating cultural change. The issues of bullying and harassment in higher education were receiving widespread media coverage, as was the shortage of academics from black and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, and equality and diversity issues relating to students.

Despite a number of recent initiatives designed to tackle these (including widening participation programmes and charter mark schemes such as Athena SWAN), it was clear that the UK higher education sector needed a new approach to improve equality and diversity.

Research conducted by Dr Alison Phipps and Dr Liz McDonnell aimed to inspire university staff and managers to work towards cultural change through promoting equality and diversity.

Their work is the subject of a research brief: ‘Supporting cultural change to improve equality and diversity in Higher Education.’ Read more ›

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Posted in Equality and Diversity