UK to support 'next-generation' nuclear technology

07 December 2017

The UK government has announced a series of measures that aim to realise the full potential of the of the country's nuclear power industry. The document 'Government to support development of next-generation nuclear technology' follows publication of the Industrial Strategy white paper last month, a core objective of which is to "ensure the UK is developing the technologies of the future and preparing to seize the opportunities they bring and build on its strengths", the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said.

In the UK, a white paper is a statement of policy, and often sets out proposals for legislative changes or the introduction of new laws. It normally follows a green paper, which is a preliminary report of government proposals published to stimulate discussion. The Industrial Strategy green paper was published in January.

In the BEIS document published today, Business Secretary Greg Clark noted that the UK's civil nuclear sector contributed GBP6.4 billion to the UK economy last year.

"Today's announcements recognise the importance of industry driving innovation, supported by government, so the sector continues to compete at the very highest level, not just in the UK but globally," Clark said.

Advanced and small modular reactors

Funding is being made available over the next three years to help support research and development (R&D) into innovative advanced and small modular reactors as well as assess their feasibility and accelerate the development of promising designs.

The government will also be supporting "early access" to regulators to build the capability and capacity needed to assess and licence small reactor designs and will establish an expert finance group to advise how small reactor projects could raise private investment in the UK.

It is providing up to GBP56 million funding for new technologies through a two-stage advanced modular reactor R&D project over three years. Stage 1 comprises up to GBP4 million for feasibility studies and up to GBP7 million to further develop the capability of nuclear regulators who support and assess advanced nuclear technologies.

Subject to Stage 1 demonstrating clear value for money through a formal re-approval process with the Treasury, up to GBP40 million will be available for advanced modular reactor R&D projects and up to a further GBP5 million for regulators.

In addition, the government plans to launch soon the second phase of its Nuclear Innovation Programme, including up to GBP8 million for work on modern safety and security methodologies and studies in advanced fuels.


Separately announcing a tender for GBP4 million in funding to develop feasibility projects for nuclear advanced modular reactors, BEIS said today that up to GBP40 million of further funding may be available for development, subject to government approval.

Applicants to lead such a project needs a "viable route to market", it said, and can be an organisation of any size or type, and work with others as sub-contractors. This is a Small Business Research Initiative and projects will receive 100% of their eligible costs.

The competition opens today, and a briefing event is scheduled for 12 December. The final date for registration is 7 February and applications must be submitted by 14 February. A decision will be made to applicants on 30 March, with contracts to be awarded in May.

This is phase 1 of the competition.

"In phase 1 there is a share of up to GBP4 million (excluding VAT) available. This is to undertake a series of feasibility studies for advanced modular reactor designs. Phase 1 contracts for technical feasibility studies will be worth up to GBP300,000 (excluding VAT)," BEIS said.

"Funding for phase 2 is subject to government approval. We estimate a share of up to GBP40 million (excluding VAT) may be available. This will be for successful selected projects from phase 1 to undertake development work," it added.

An additional invitation to tender and bid process will not take place for phase 2.


A further GBP86 million was announced today for fusion research to set up a national fusion technology platform at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire.

The government has awarded the funding to UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) to establish a centre to support innovation and expertise in nuclear fusion technologies. The funding will establish a National Fusion Technology Platform (NaFTeP) at UKAEA’s Culham Centre.

NaFTeP will bring together organisations from across the supply chain to provide a unique, world-leading set of nuclear research and innovation facilities in tritium and fusion technology, BEIS said. NaFTeP will support UK industry in targeting major scientific and engineering contracts in nuclear fusion and safeguard the future of the Culham site and the world-class scientists and engineers that work there, it added.

The new investment will allow UK firms to compete for up to a further GBP1 billion of international contracts for fusion technologies, including for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).

Science Minister Jo Johnson said: "Our new Industrial Strategy clearly detailed our ambition to build on the UK's existing scientific strengths and ensure UK expertise remains at the forefront of pioneering research that has global impact.

"This new funding for nuclear fusion research will establish a unique set of research and innovation capabilities that will safeguard the exceptional work already taking place in Culham by scientists and engineers from across the world, and emphasises the UK's commitment to international collaboration."

ITER, the successor project to the EU's Joint European Torus (JET) reactor in Culham, is currently under construction in France and will continue efforts to develop a clean, safe and virtually limitless energy source.

Large nuclear

Speaking at the Nuclear Industry Association's annual conference in London today, Energy Minister Richard Harrington also set out the next steps to allow large new nuclear projects to apply for planning consent after 2025.

"As we set out in our Industrial Strategy, the nuclear sector has a key role to play in increasing productivity and driving clean growth across the country. Nuclear is a vital part of our energy mix, providing low-carbon power now and into the future so today's package of new measures will help to boost innovation and provide greater clarity on our future plans.

"Today, in recognising value of policy certainty, we are launching a consultation on siting of large-scale nuclear plants, which begins the process towards designating a new National Policy Statement (NPS) for conventional nuclear power stations deployable between 2026 and 2035. The initial consultation sets out the proposed siting process and assessment criteria for a site potentially suitable for nuclear plants with single reactor capacity above 1 GWe. In having this new national policy statement in place, we provide reassurance and certainty to the 2030s."

Today's announcements, and the recent launch of the Industrial Strategy white paper, "set out the government's vision for an economy that can drive growth across the country, boost national productivity and provide UK business with certainty," he said.

BEIS said the current NPS for nuclear will remain in place for as long as it is required, adding that the government is consulting on the arrangements for the siting of nuclear power stations for the period beyond 2025.

This consultation - National Policy Statement for new nuclear above 1GW post 2025: siting criteria and process - sets out the process and the updated high-level criteria used to assess potentially suitable sites. There will be a further consultation on a new NPS during late 2018.

The government's intention is to carry forward existing sites into the new NPS, subject to them meeting the updated siting criteria and environmental assessments.

This consultation and the subsequent NPS being developed under this process will not apply to SMRs. The government will consider planning issues related to smaller reactors of less than 1 GWe separately.

Geological Disposal Facility

The government also said it intends to launch two public consultations in 2018 on working with communities in an intended consent-based siting process; and on a National Policy Statement for Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) infrastructure.

Harrington signalled that the government would bring forward consultations in the New Year on the GDF. This will enable the development of a multi-billion-pound infrastructure project, creating thousands of jobs and opportunities for UK companies in the supply chain, he said.

"We recognise the need to implement a strong long-term solution for the disposal of higher activity radioactive waste. That's why, early in the New Year we will be launching two consultations as part of a process to site a geological disposal facility for higher activity radioactive waste. We'll be consulting on a framework for future planning decisions and secondly on our approach to working with local communities in the siting process.

"Internationally it's been shown that willing host communities are central to successful siting and strong and effective lasting relationships built on mutual trust and a shared vision for long-term economic benefits for the host community are key to the success delivery of a programme of a GDF."

Nuclear Innovation Programme

The BEIS statement also announced the second phase of the Nuclear Innovation Programme, which consists of GBP3.7 million for work on reactor design and safety engineering and GBP4.3 million for work on advanced nuclear fuels.

As part of the first phase of this programme, launched last year, the government has also awarded GBP5 million of contracts for work on nuclear advanced materials and manufacturing.

Nuclear Industry Council

The government support announced today comes as the Nuclear Industry Council (NIC) published proposals as part of its ongoing work to drive down the cost of nuclear energy for consumers while maintaining UK expertise.

The Industrial Strategy green paper, published in January, cited nuclear as suitable for a potential Sector Deal. Since then Lord John Hutton, NIC chairman, has led the sector in the development of a range of proposals across key areas including new build, waste and decommissioning, R&D and skills.

The industry has today published its proposals for a nuclear Sector Deal, including ideas that target significant cost reductions in new build and decommissioning.

NIA Chief Executive Tom Greatrex said: "We share the desire expressed by Richard Harrington to finalise agreement on the ambitious proposals for a nuclear Sector Deal which the Nuclear Industry Council has put to government."

He added: "The series of commitments made today are relevant to fusion, advanced technology, modular reactors, large scale new build and innovation in fuels. While there is more to do in some of these areas, the overall package is nevertheless a strong signal of commitment to and confidence in an industry that is integral to supplying the low carbon, secure and reliable power system we need for the future. There are real opportunities for the future in innovation and advanced technology which can help meet our climate commitments, while providing jobs, growth and economic opportunities for UK companies at home and abroad." 

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News