National labs hold summit to tackle climate goals

04 February 2022

The national laboratories from the UK, USA, France, Canada and Japan have held a summit at which they agreed to collaborate on research and innovation to get to a net zero energy economy.

(Image: IEA)

The aim of the event, hosted by the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), was to build on the COP26 summit - the United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Glasgow in November.

Senior delegates from eight national laboratories covering nuclear, renewables and other low-carbon technologies agreed to work together to progress "a holistic understanding of what the future integrated energy system will look like in order to evolve technologies to be fit and ready to deliver".

The UK government's chief scientific officer Patrick Vallance said innovation had a key role in helping solve the climate challenge which "is a huge one for societies across the world… it's an international issue and therefore requires international collaboration".

NNL CEO Paul Howarth said the national laboratories had a "unique role" to play "bridging the gap between academia and industry and driving the innovation required for future technologies to deliver".

The joint statement of intent agreed at the summit on integrated energy systems said that discoveries made by the national laboratories had improved the lives of billions of people.

It added: "The transition to net zero is driving fundamental changes to energy supply, demand, transmission, distribution, storage and use. Research and innovation is required to develop, design and operate, a net zero energy economy.

"An integrated energy system can combine low carbon energy sources, such as nuclear and renewables, leveraging the benefits of each technology and their mode of operation to provide reliable, sustainable and affordable low-carbon energy, and energy services that benefit our citizens."

It added: "By working together, we have an opportunity to coordinate and collaborate around our approach, and to enhance the prospect of this decisive next decade being successful."

Among the agreed areas of collaboration is research on the use of hydrogen "directly as a fuel or as a feedstock for other synthetic fuels", sharing best practice on sustainability, having exchange visits and joint papers and a commitment to meet annually to review progress.

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s Kentaro Funaki said: “We are already partners in nuclear research and innovation … and we all have solid grounds to design, develop and deploy nuclear-renewable hybrid systems.”

JAEA added that it has been exploring the potential of high temperature gas-cooled reactors for heat utilisation and hydrogen production.

"We decided to participate in this initiative in which research institutes in non-nuclear fields also participate, considering integrated energy systems requires an all-out effort by the energy community, not just nuclear energy community," it added.

Marianne Walck, chief research officer for Idaho National Laboratory, said: “Transitioning to a low-carbon energy system is critically important for global sustainability, and integrated energy systems can harness the benefits of clean energy sources working together, including nuclear and renewables.”

Stephane Sarrade, from the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, said the commission was proud to take part, saying it was “in line with French energy policy, based on the use and convergence of nuclear and renewable energies”.

Jeff Griffin, vice president Science and Technology at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, said: "CNL's clean energy mission is driving research and development in hydrogen technology, advanced reactors and fuels and the sustainable operation of our current CANDU fleet … collective knowledge is a powerful tool, and we look forward to sharing our expertise, research and learning to help shape the energy systems of the future."

Guy Newey, strategy and performance director at Energy Systems Catapult, said: "If we're to unleash the innovation we need to get to a net zero global economy, it's essential we take an integrated approach that understands the roles of different technologies, of markets, of digital technology and, crucially, of people."

Doug Arent, Executive Director of Strategic Public Private Partnerships at the USA’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, added: "Building off many years of our domestic collaborations focused on low carbon integrated energy systems, we are excited to participate in this international collaboration among national laboratories."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News