UK Nuclear Physics Research At Risk

Technology Council logoIn a letter to the Times the UK academic community expressed their dismay at cuts in funding.

The academic nuclear physics community’s contribution to UK plc cannot be overestimated.

Sir, Today, the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) announces research cuts that, it is feared, may fall disproportionately on the UK’s nuclear physics research base, with devastating long-term effects. STFC’s below-expectation budget allocation after the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review was followed by cuts that resulted in an £80 million deficit. Despite help from the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, a deficit of £40 million remains. Much of the STFC budget is fixed by international facility subscriptions and there is genuine concern that the cuts will be borne largely by university grants, putting the future of the UK’s nuclear physics research base at risk.

Nuclear physics is a primary contributor to the energy supply debate. The Copenhagen summit highlighted planned reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The Government has concluded that a new generation of nuclear energy generating plants will be part of the UK energy mix. The nuclear physics community plays a key role in the training of skilled manpower vital for the nuclear new-build programme. It seems inconceivable that funding cuts, which have the potential to undermine the UK’s nuclear physics training base, are possible at this time.

UK nuclear physicists carry out world-class science and provide genuine scientific excitement for young people. Spending money on large telescopes to understand our Universe makes sense only if we also invest money to understand the nuclear processes that drive the stellar phenomena that formed the chemical elements in the first place.

The academic nuclear physics community’s contribution to UK plc cannot be overestimated. A cut in the approximately £10 million a year currently devoted to underpinning the fundamental nuclear physics research base in the UK will have serious consequences for decades to come in terms of the UK’s ability to be competitive in areas including nuclear power generation, defence, environmental monitoring and medical diagnosis and treatment. Any further reduction, therefore, must be resisted strongly.

Professor J. Billowes, University of Manchester
Professor A. M. Bruce, University of Brighton
Professor M. Freer, University of Birmingham
Professor R. Kaiser, University of Glasgow
Professor P. J. Nolan, University of Liverpool
Professor P. H. Regan, University of Surrey
Professor R. Wadsworth, University of York
Professor P. Woods, University of Edinburgh
Professor P. A Butler University of Liverpool
Professor R. D Page, University of Liverpool
Professor R. D Herzberg, University of Liverpool
Professor M. Birse, University of Manchester
Professor S. J Freeman, University of Manchester
Professor N. Walet, University of Manchester
Professor J. S. Al-Khalili, OBE, University of Surrey
Professor W. N Catford, University of Surrey
Professor Emeritus W. Gelletly, OBE, University of Surrey
Professor Emeritus R. C. Johnson, University of Surrey
Professor J. A. Tostevin, University of Surrey
Professor P. M. Walker, University of Surrey
Professor R. Chapman, University of the West of Scotland
Professor M. A. Bentley, University of York