National Nuclear Laboratory


Wednesday 19 July 2023

Accelerating the UK’s future nuclear fuels

The National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), the UK’s national laboratory for nuclear fission, working with its Japanese counterpart, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), has received investment from the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero to continue its vital work on coated particle fuel. This is the fuel used by the next generation of high temperature gas reactors that produce high-grade heat – vital to the UK’s decarbonisation goals.

The laboratory recently celebrated the casting of active fuel kernels at scale. These kernels form the tiny particles of uranium, that are subsequently coated in four layers of ceramic and carbon creating coated particle fuel. Often referred to as ‘the most robust nuclear fuel’, each coated particle is roughly the size of a poppy seed – with the uranium kernel housed inside its own miniature container vessel.

This investment will allow NNL’s scientists and engineers to continue work towards the production of UK sovereign fuel, a critical enabler for our future energy security. It builds on the government-funded Advanced Fuel Cycle Programme – which was the UK’s biggest investment in the nuclear fuel cycle in a generation – to deliver innovation in advance fuels and recycling. JAEA bring decades of experience of working with the Japanese Supply Chain in designing and manufacturing this type of fuel.

Dr Gareth Headdock, Vice President for Government and New Build, NNL said: “The research and development taking place here in the UK is developing a new generation of scientists and engineers and increasing our world-leading skills in nuclear. We are providing a wealth of opportunities for both large and small companies in the supply chain.  During the Advanced Fuel Cycle Programme, we worked with over 90 organisations in the UK, we opened our facilities to SMEs new to nuclear, increasing the sector’s supply chain resilience. This new investment will continue to enable both NNL and the fuel supply chain to continue this exciting work.”