National Nuclear Laboratory

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BEIS Permanent Secretary visits Central Lab in West Cumbria, the most advanced nuclear facility in the world

The Permanent Secretary for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Sarah Munby has visited the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL)’s Central Lab to see first-hand the unique set of capabilities that enable our ground-breaking nuclear research and development.

Located within Sellafield in West Cumbria, Central Lab is a key asset to UK and global nuclear research and development and central to help realise the UK’s science superpower ambitions.

The Permanent Secretary spoke to NNL’s scientists about their work on the advanced fuels programme will underpin the nuclear fuels of the future, ensuring we can have sovereign UK manufacturing capabilities once again. She also learnt more about the lab’s work on the existing nuclear fleet, and how NNL is bringing together expertise across academia, research and industry to develop a sovereign capability to produce space-based nuclear power systems.

She was joined by members of NNL’s leadership team along with two of the lab’s West Cumbrian scientific apprentices Chloe Edmondson and Kerry Jackson, UK Nuclear Apprentice of the Year, who explained NNL’s approach to bringing new, high paid and high-skilled jobs to the North West as well as vast manufacturing and supply chain opportunities.

In total a third of NNL’s work is outsourced to suppliers, from local SMEs to industry heavyweights and UK universities. In particular, the lab’s work in the supply chain adds more than £130m per year to the local economy and supports nearly 2,000 jobs.

After the visit, Sarah wrote in a blog: “Sellafield is also home to the National Nuclear Laboratory’s lead lab which is one of the world’s leading sites for nuclear research. As part of our visit we saw prototype space batteries, new processes for fuel development for future advanced reactors – underlining the way the site not only handles so much of our nuclear history, but is also building the capabilities and people that will underpin the commitments we have made to our nuclear future.”

Dr Paul Howarth, Chief Executive Officer at NNL, added: “We were pleased to show the Perm Sec around our laboratory and bring to life the how our nuclear research and development is benefitting society, from the development of clean energy solutions to help the UK reach Net Zero to future space missions. NNL also has a lifetime collaboration agreement with Sellafield – this has benefited the services we provide on every level and is helping to ensure the UK is match-fit when it comes to environmental restoration.”