National Nuclear Laboratory


Friday 2 September 2022

NNL and partners to assess nuclear reactor design and fuel production for UK’s first AMR demonstration

National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) and its partners have been selected to assess the feasibility of both the nuclear reactor design and the fuel production for the first demonstration Advanced Modular Reactor (AMR) in the UK. The studies are being funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), where nuclear plays a key role in the government’s strategies to meet the UK’s net zero future.

NNL will work with Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) and Jacobs to assess the feasibility of their joint solution, the ‘UKJ-HTR’, that will combine JAEA’s world-leading capability on High Temperature Gas Reactors (HTGRs) with more than 50 years of research and development from the UK’s national laboratory for nuclear fission, alongside Jacobs’ reactor design experience and delivery of major infrastructure projects worldwide. 

NNL, Urenco and JAEA will provide a feasibility study for their joint solution to deliver Coated Particle Fuel (CPF) in the UK. CPF is an extremely robust nuclear fuel, developed since the 1960s and used in HTGRs.

About the UKJ-HTR

The UK government is focussing on AMR technology due to its ability to produce high-quality heat, with outlet temperatures of up to 950°C. Energy outputs from UKJ-HTR will be targeted at providing heat, hydrogen, and flexible electricity to decarbonise industrial, transport and domestic energy use in the UK, while simultaneously supporting international low carbon energy needs through the export of fuels and reactor technology. The UKJ-HTR supports both the British Energy Security Strategy and the UK Hydrogen Strategy. It will enable decarbonisation from fossil fuels and provides the clean energy input required for low carbon fuels. 

Dr Paul Howarth, Chief Executive Officer at NNL, said: “We are delighted that the UKJ-HTR has been selected for this phase of development of the next generation of nuclear reactors in the UK. Unleashing innovation is fundamental to our work as a national laboratory. We have world-leading facilities for our scientists and technologists, enabling them to develop the pioneering solutions, skills and capabilities required to deliver the UKJ-HTR.”

The ground-breaking design of the UKJ-HTR will target technology demonstration by the early 2030s by leveraging a proven HTGR baseline from Japan.  Innovation will run throughout the design, construction, and operation of the demonstration reactor. Every step of this new technology will reduce risk and promote investment in future AMR fleet deployments.

Mr. KOGUCHI Masanori, President of JAEA, said: “JAEA and NNL have developed a long history of technical co-operation that began in 2001. We are pleased to start a new collaboration in the field of High Temperature Gas-cooled Reactors with NNL and to contribute the UK AMR demonstration programme using our technology and expertise accumulated through R&D on the High Temperature Engineering Test Reactor in Japan.

Jacobs will bring its knowledge of reactor technology, testing and research, licensing and regulation as well as integration and programme delivery experience drawn from hundreds of nuclear projects worldwide. Karen Wiemelt, Jacobs Energy, Security and Technology Senior Vice President said “Our work on designing and supporting the U.K.’s existing nuclear power stations means that we have more than 60 years of experience in research, development and operations of high temperature gas rectors. Having collaborated with JAEA and NNL over many years, Jacobs is excited to be involved at the start of this important international programme, which has huge potential to address the global climate challenge and to make the world more sustainable.”

Energy Minister Greg Hands, said, “This investment will help unlock the potential for new nuclear reactors in the UK, as we drive forward plans to boost clean, cutting-edge, homegrown technologies for our energy security, while driving down bills in the long term.”

About UK-CPF

NNL is the project lead and Technical Authority for the fuel study, named ‘UK-CPF’. It will be able to deliver the first fuel load for the HTGR demonstrator in the 2030s. NNL is the UK-CPF Technical Authority and will lead the project.

Dr Paul Howarth, Chief Executive Officer at NNL said: “UK-CPF is a pathway to sovereign low carbon fuel production, providing us with future energy security. It will enable the creation of highly skilled jobs and presents a significant economic opportunity for the UK. Since 2019, BEIS has invested £56m in the Advanced Fuel Cycle Programme (AFCP), led by NNL. It is the biggest government investment in nuclear fuel research and development in a generation.”

The AFCP has already established a UK manufacturing route for CPF. Laboratory-scale fuel development is progressing, to enable the UK to manufacture commercial scale advanced fuel. Collaborative innovation in the AFCP, in partnership with over 100 organisations worldwide, demonstrates a clear return on the government’s investment.

Boris Schucht, Urenco Chief Executive Officer, said: “Security of energy supply and realising crucial climate change goals requires the evolution of the nuclear fuel cycle. This includes a focus on producing the next generation of fuels for nuclear reactors, including HALEU (High Assay, Low Enriched Uranium), the feedstock required for CPF. Urenco is committed to this development and we are proud to be part of this strong collaboration between the nuclear industry and UK government, which will provide an enhanced service for global utilities and wider benefits for society.”

Mr. KOGUCHI Masanori, President of JAEA said: “JAEA operates a HTGR test reactor in Japan, called the High Temperature Engineering Test Reactor (HTTR). The excellent performance of the Japanese CPF used in the HTTR has been demonstrated through its operations. We are pleased to contribute to the UK AMR demonstration programme using our HTGR fuel fabrication technology and expertise accumulated through R&D on fuel for the HTTR.”

Commercial-scale fuel production will use innovative modular approaches, allowing the team to broaden manufacturing to other advanced fuels. Delivery will be in conjunction with a further team of specialist organisations, building on the collaborative delivery approach of the AFCP.