National Nuclear Laboratory


Thursday 2 December 2021

Response to government confirmation of high temperature gas reactors (HTGRs) as technology of choice

Following confirmation today from the Rt Hon Greg Hands, UK Energy Minister, that High Temperature Gas Reactors (HTGRs) would be the technology of choice for advanced nuclear demonstration by the early 2030s. Dr Paul Howarth, Chief Executive Officer at the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), said:

“On what is the 79th anniversary of the world’s very first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction at Stagg Field in Chicago, USA, it is a further signal of the resurgence of nuclear that HTGRs have been announced as the UK’s Advanced Modular Reactor (AMR) technology of choice for demonstration.

“Today’s announcement from government, and nuclear’s inclusion in the green taxonomy, underlines without a doubt that net zero needs nuclear, and that our sector can and must play a major role across our whole energy system. With the opportunity that HTGRs bring to deliver high temperature heat, hydrogen and synthetic fuels, the potential of this technology to help decarbonise our industries and energy grid is significant.

“As we look to the future and the part we play as a scientific superpower, the UK’s unparalleled experience in gas-cooled technologies make HTGRs the common-sense choice for pursuing advanced nuclear. Following announcements already made on financing for the next stage of the Rolls-Royce SMR programme, and the proposed Nuclear Energy (Financing) Bill to make large-scale plants more achievable, the UK is primed once more to be a global leader in nuclear technologies – large, small and advanced.

“At NNL, as the UK’s national laboratory for nuclear fission, we are actively working on the fuel, graphite and high temperature materials required for HTGRs. With the strength of these capabilities, as well as the people and skills across our laboratories, we look forward to bringing research and development together with demonstration to take this technology to the next stage, ready for commercial deployment.”