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Nuclear has never been more important

Posted on 17/11/2016

Competition is set to revitalise nuclear industry and position UK as global leader.

The UK Government has put nuclear energy at the heart of its infrastructure policy.

By Ray Chegwin

When Hinkley Point C was given the green light in September, the nuclear industry in the UK became front-page news. The £18bn project is expected to produce 7% of the country’s energy supply by 2025 – and its approval demonstrates just how important new generation sources may be to “keeping the lights on” in future. Developing a secure supply of sustainable, low-carbon energy is critical.

The UK Government has put nuclear energy at the heart of its infrastructure policy. In December 2015, then-Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne used the Spending Review to announce that at least £250 million would be spent on an ambitious programme of nuclear R&D over five years, with the aim of reviving the UK’s nuclear expertise and positioning the UK as a global leader in innovative nuclear technologies.

The announcement included a competition to identify the best value small modular reactor design for the UK. This will pave the way towards building one of the world’s first small modular reactors in the UK in the 2020s. Details of the first £20 million tranche of funding and competitions will be announced today by BEIS at a briefing event in London.

The focus will be on the key areas identified by NIRAB (Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board) as priority national needs, which will target improving the prospects for the economic deployment of nuclear power technologies in the UK, skills development, business growth and export opportunities:

  • Advanced nuclear fuels – safer and more efficient
  • Reactor design – delivering the people, processes and tools to make the UK the partner of choice as the world designs SMRs and 4th generation nuclear power plants
  • Recycle and waste management – research fuel recycling processes that may reduce future environmental and financial burdens
  • Nuclear facilities and strategic toolkit – a suite of toolkits and underpinning data that will enhance government’s knowledge basis for future decision making in the nuclear sector, up to 2050.
  • Advanced manufacturing and materials – developing the UK’s capability in materials, advanced manufacturing and modular build for the reactors of the future.

Today’s event will provide information on the technical scope of the programmes outlined above, how to apply for funding for each of the themes, the associated timescales and budgets. Plans for a separate networking event for the advanced manufacturing and materials competition will also be announced.

Ray Chegwin is KTN’s Knowledge Transfer Manager – Nuclear. He will be chairing today’s briefing event for Innovate UK’s nuclear R&D competition.

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