National Nuclear Laboratory


Thursday 26 February 2015

NNL Welcomes NIRAB Report

The Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board (NIRAB) has today published its first Annual Report which “summarises the work carried out during 2014, for which the focus has been on identifying where research and innovation is needed as a priority to underpin Government and industry’s vision of a vibrant nuclear sector. The vision is for nuclear energy to play a significant role in delivering a secure, sustainable and affordable low carbon energy future, and to create an industrial sector that makes a positive contribution to the economy through high value jobs and exports.” (taken from the NIRAB press release)

NNL’s Managing Director, Professor Paul Howarth commented:

“NNL strongly welcomes the publication of the NIRAB recommendations and the fact that we now have a clear pathway identified for future prioritisation of nuclear energy R&D activity for the UK. I congratulate NIRAB for the excellent work they have done to date. It is now important that we see Government funding coming forward to allow this important work to proceed, so that the UK can once again return to a place at the top table of nuclear nations.”

The NIRAB press release continues: 

NIRAB concludes there is a clear gap in the UK’s R&D activity into next generation nuclear reactor technologies, including SMRs and Generation IV reactors, and their associated fuel cycles. This is an area of increasing activity in leading nuclear nations worldwide and in which the UK should play a key role if the vision for the sector is to be met.

There is an urgent need to take action to address a looming crisis in relation to the continued availability of the high level skills which are required by both industry and the regulator.  This skills issue has arisen, in part, as a result of a 20 year gap in funding in the UK for nuclear R&D into future nuclear energy technologies.   The age profile of the high level R&D skill base is unsustainable, with the majority of experts rapidly approaching or already past the age of retirement.

NIRAB recommends that Government should commission a programme of research and innovation aimed at not only addressing the urgent skills issue and developing the next generation of experts, but also positioning UK industry to gain a significant stake in a global future nuclear reactor market delivering huge benefits to the UK economy over many decades.