Jean Venables to chair the Nuclear Liabilities Fund

In the week that started with National Women in Engineering Day (NWED) it is appropriate that Government has announced that new head of the fund that manages £8.8bn of investments to support the costs of nuclear decommissioning and waste management is civil engineer Jean Venables.

Jean Venables, new chair of the Nuclear Liabilities Fund

Venables is taking over the role of chair of the Nuclear Liabilities Fund (NLF) on 1 July from Lady Balfour of Burleigh.

Venables, a former president of the Institution of Civil Engineers will be continuing her job as chief executive of the Association of Drainage Authorities, a role where she has been promoting best practice in flood defence thinking.

“We will  be considering how to turn the considerable experience we have as a country in the nuclear decommissioning field into an effective export.”

“My experience in risk management along with long term thinking in relation to infrastructure that has to be able to adapt to climate change were to key to my appointment,” Venables said.

Announcing the appointment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Baroness Verma also highlighted Venables “wealth of experience from her civil engineering career” and her “leadership capability”.

Venables new role comes in the week it was announced that the costs of cleaning up Britain’s nuclear waste, according to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), has risen by £6.6bn to £110Bn over the next 120 years.

The NLF is responsible for managing its assets to fund certain decommissioning, waste and spent fuel management costs at the former British Energy plants now owned and managed by EDF Energy (EDFE).  These comprise seven advanced gas cooled reactor stations and one pressurised water reactor. The fund was set up in 1996 and is independent but works with Government, EDFE and the NDA.

“The challenge of the job obviously is to keep making sure the fund is being effective,” Venables said. “There is a regular strategy review beginning after my appointment which will report after the next general election in 2015.

“We will also be considering how to turn the considerable experience we have as a country in the nuclear decommissioning field into an effective export.”

Venables was putting her extended high profile to good use on Monday for NWED. “I spoke at an Atkins event and wanted to explain how much better things are for women than when I first started out in the early 1970s,” she said. “There was no equal pay, no sex discrimination legislation, it was down to be me being stubborn to stop people ordering me off site. Women in engineering have come a long way since then. A major issue now is making sure companies put in place tools for parental support, not just for mothers. And in general the major issue is about fairness and equal opportunities, not just opportunities for women.”

NLFs first project

The first major project funded by the NLF began at Sizewell B in January 2013. This is the construction of a new dry store for spent fuel, the first such facility in the UK. All the spent fuel from Sizewell B’s reactor is stored underwater in a fuel storage/cooling pond but this is expected to reach capacity in 2015. The new dry store will provide additional capacity until a deep geological disposal facility is available. EDFE has responsibility for managing and funding Sizewell B spent fuel but costs arising beyond the current station pond storage regime are a qualifiying liability funded by the NLF as is the cost of constructing the new dry store.

If you would like to contact Jackie Whitelaw about this, or any other story, please email