Press release

£31 million injection for new nuclear technology in the UK

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Vince Cable announces new funding awards that will enhance the supply chain and increase opportunities in the nuclear industry

Electronic image of an atom
iStockphoto / alengo

The nuclear industry received a boost today as Business Secretary Vince Cable announced major new funding awards that will enhance the supply chain and increase opportunities to commercialise new technologies in the sector.

The funding will support 36 projects across the UK in developing new technologies for the construction, operation and decommissioning of nuclear power plants. This will bring together over 60 experienced organisations including Laing O’Rourke, Sheffield Forgemasters and EDF. They will work alongside innovative small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and universities.

The £18 million joint funding between the Technology Strategy Board, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is expected to leverage in an additional £13 million making the total value of the projects £31 million.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

There are huge global opportunities that the UK is well placed to take advantage of in the nuclear industry. Our strong research base will help develop exciting new technologies that can be commercialised here and then exported across the globe.

The Technology Strategy Board is playing a vital role in helping UK businesses realise their potential and compete on a bigger scale. There are many innovative SMEs across the nuclear sector and this joint funding reinforces the government’s commitment to a nuclear strategy that will create jobs and growth.

The announcement has been made alongside the publication of the government’s nuclear industrial strategy, which sets out the objectives to develop a strong and sustainable nuclear industry in the UK.

Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board Iain Gray said:

Delivering a new fleet of nuclear power stations to help meet the country’s energy needs involves a number of highly-sophisticated and leading edge technologies. The support announced today will help to develop capabilities in this country. That is good news for the economy because it will help us build a world-leading technology base that can provide solutions around the world as well as here in the UK.

One of the projects to receive major investment is a consortium lead by Bristol-based OC Robotics which have received almost £6 million in funding.

The company is developing a new technology called LaserSnake. It is a robot- controlled laser cutting tool that can be used underwater or above ground in confined and hazardous spaces. It could play a key role in nuclear decommissioning projects to dismantle vessels, support structures and pipe work.

The new funding will help OC Robotics to develop the technology to a full demonstration project which could lead to the UK being a world leader in this technology. The technology also has the potential to be used across other sectors including the military and construction industries.

Dr Adrian Simper, the NDA’s Strategy and Technology Director, said:

We were extremely pleased with the level of interest in decommissioning projects from both established organisations and smaller, newer businesses. Our decommissioning strategy focuses very much on developing innovative technologies through collaborative working, while joint funding initiatives such as this increase the investment potential and provide much broader opportunities for interested partners.

We also welcome the comprehensive nature of the subject areas, covering new build as well as decommissioning, which will enable the sharing and transfer of technologies between the different nuclear sectors.

By 2030 it is forecast that globally there will be £930 billion investment in building new reactors and £250 billion in decommissioning those that are coming off-line. The nuclear new build programme in the UK alone could generate up to 40,000 jobs at its peak. The nuclear industrial strategy sets out the basis for a long-term partnership between government and industry to exploit those opportunities.

Notes to editors:

1.The total funding from each organisation was £10 million from the Technology Strategy Board, £3 million from DECC, £3 million from the NDA and £2 million from EPSRC.

2.A breakdown of the funding is as follows:

  • £10.9 million between 16 large-scale R&D nuclear projects co-funded by the Technology Strategy Board (£5.7 million), DECC (£2 million), the NDA (£1.2 million) and EPSRC (£2 million).
  • £5.8 million investment for OC Robotics consortium in Bristol to develop ‘LaserSnake’ – a robot controlled laser cutting tool that can be used to decommission nuclear structures, co-funded by the Technology Strategy Board (£4 million), DECC (£1 million) and the NDA (£1 million). The LaserSnake combines robot technology with a laser cutting head that was adapted for nuclear use by Cambridge-based TWI, supported by £1 million of funding from the NDA.
  • £900,000 investment for nine new nuclear related Knowledge Transport Partnerships (KTPs) between businesses and universities, co-funded by the Technology Strategy Board (£450,000) and NDA (£450,000).
  • £700,000 shared between ten projects for nuclear technology feasibility studies, co-funded by Technology Strategy Board (£363,000) and the NDA (£345,000).

3.For full lists and a regional breakdown of the please contact Simon Napper in the Technology Strategy Board press office. Email: simon.napper@tsb.gov.uk. Tel: 07881 842583.

4.The Technology Strategy Board is the UK’s innovation agency. Its goal is to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation. Sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Technology Strategy Board brings together business, research and the public sector, supporting and accelerating the development of innovative products and services to meet market needs, tackle major societal challenges and help build the future economy. For more information please visit www.innovateuk.org.

5.The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) is responsible for the clean-up of 19 historic sites dating from the earliest days of experimental research. These include the first generation of power stations (the 11-strong Magnox fleet), various research and fuel-related facilities, together with Sellafield, Europe’s largest and most complex nuclear site. R&D is key to developing solutions to a wide range of technical challenges.

6.The government’s economic policy objective is to achieve ‘strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries’. It set four ambitions in the ‘Plan for Growth’ (PDF 1.7MB), published at Budget 2011:

  • to create the most competitive tax system in the G20
  • to make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business
  • to encourage investment and exports as a route to a more balanced economy
  • to create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe.

Work is underway across government to achieve these ambitions, including progress on more than 250 measures as part of the Growth Review. Developing an Industrial Strategy gives new impetus to this work by providing businesses, investors and the public with more clarity about the long-term direction in which the government wants the economy to travel.

Published 26 March 2013