UK's National Nuclear Laboratory homes in on net-zero

08 June 2021

NNL, the UK’s national laboratory for nuclear fission, has today launched its new Strategic Plan: This is NNL. With legally binding targets in the UK to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and more than 120 other countries moving towards the same goal, it is "impossible to overestimate the scale of the challenge ahead", NNL said.

NNL will focus on four strategic areas of national importance:

  • Clean Energy - "A thriving nuclear power sector is an essential component of the UK’s path to net zero";
  • Environmental Restoration - "For 65 years, the UK's nuclear power stations have generated electricity, successfully providing nearly a fifth of its current overall power needs and two-fifths of its clean electricity";
  • Health and Nuclear Medicine - "Each year, thousands of National Health Service patients benefit from the advances of nuclear medicine in their treatment";
  • Security and Non-proliferation - "It is clear that nuclear science holds the keys to advancing many areas of our lives and can help governments and industry to create a better planet for us all."

In delivering on these four areas, NNL says it will also be supporting the creation of high-skilled, high-paid jobs predominantly in the North West of England, where all four its laboratories are located.

"Without nuclear, the UK will not meet this target on time. And without NNL's work, the UK nuclear sector cannot deliver what is required," NNL Chief Executive Officer Paul Howarth, said."Whether it is accelerating a UK demonstration programme for Advanced Modular Reactors or delivering our first indigenous supply of medical radioisotopes since the 1960s, NNL will be at the forefront of game-changing advances that will help to transform the environment and people’s lives, now and into the future"

The publication includes an interview with NNL’s Chief Science and Technology Officer, Fiona Rayment, who said: "Our Focus Areas make perfect sense because they all have three qualities in common: they are all greatly needed by the UK, they are all areas we are working on now, and they all are areas where we have the capability - by which I mean the infrastructure and skills - to expand and work with the whole of the nuclear sector to successfully contribute."

She added: "Collaboration is key in the nuclear sector, because no single area of expertise resides in just one organisation. We would like to be in a situation where we operate a user facility for our infrastructure, so that academia, other national labs and the entirety of the supply chain can all access it. It will be the nuclear industry that goes on to sell and utilise reactor technology but our role is to underpin what the technology does, so that it can be successfully deployed within the commercial marketplace."

UK Energy Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan says in the same publication that new and advanced nuclear are key parts of the government's Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution because nuclear power provides a reliable source of low-carbon electricity. "The National Nuclear Laboratory is at the forefront of pioneering innovation and remains a world leader in nuclear research and development. I am delighted that NNL is playing a critical role in developing next-generation nuclear fuels and fuel cycles, helping us build back greener and eliminating the UK’s contribution to climate change," the minister said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News