Funding for nuclear innovation

Applying for government funding for UK civil nuclear fission innovation.

Nuclear innovation, 2016 to 2021

At Spending Review 2015, government committed to invest in an ambitious nuclear research and development programme.

Across Government, Innovate UK, Research Councils, and BEIS expect to invest around £460 million in nuclear research and innovation.

As part of this commitment, within the BEIS Energy Innovation Programme, BEIS expects to invest around £180 million in nuclear innovation.

Nuclear innovation, Phase One Funding

As part of this commitment, an initial phase of over £20 million of funding was launched in November 2016, supporting innovation in the civil nuclear sector across 5 major areas from 2016-18 and building on the recommendations set out by the Nuclear Innovation Research Advisory Board (NIRAB)

This funding included:

  • £6 million towards maintaining the UK’s leading edge work on advanced nuclear fuels which could provide greater levels of efficiency.
  • £5 million for research that underpins the development, safety and efficiency of the next generation of nuclear reactor designs. This includes scoping work in collaboration with the Welsh government.
  • £6 million to develop the UK’s capability in nuclear materials, advanced manufacturing and modular build for the reactors of the future. This process is being led by Innovate UK through the Small Business Research Initiative.
  • £2 million to research fuel recycling processes that may reduce future environmental and financial burdens.
  • £2 million to continue with the development of a suite of toolkits and underpinning data that will enhance government’s knowledge basis for future decision making in the nuclear sector, up to 2050.

A number of contracts, valued at up to £12.5 million, have now been awarded covering the areas above. Work has commenced on these contracts and is being led by a number of organisations, including:

  • National Nuclear Laboratories (on advanced nuclear fuels and recycling)
  • Frazer Nash (on reactor design, including thermal hydraulics and safety engineering, and on materials and manufacturing)
  • Amec Foster Wheeler (on reactor design, materials, and manufacturing)
  • Brunel University London (on materials and manufacturing)
  • Cammell Laird Energy (on materials and manufacturing)
  • Nuclear AMRC (on materials and manufacturing)
  • University of Sheffield (on materials and manufacturing)

Nuclear innovation, Phase Two Funding

A second phase of innovation funding was announced in December 2017, providing up to £8 million for work on modern safety and security methodologies and advanced fuel studies.

This includes:

  • £3.7 million of funding for work on reactor design and safety engineering. This work will aim to: build better tools for developing and evaluating safety and security cases, improve the evaluation of nuclear safety and security performance and, increase understanding of how nuclear safety, nuclear security and safeguards requirements can be delivered throughout the design process.
  • £4.3 million of funding for work on advanced nuclear fuels. This work will aim to develop world leading laboratories to develop accident tolerant fuels and to develop improved computer modelling and simulation of how advanced nuclear fuels behave in operation. This work will support the deployment of advanced nuclear reactors, such as Generation IV technologies.

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Support for advanced nuclear technologies

Government is providing up to £7 million of funding to regulators to build the capability and capacity needed to assess and license small and novel reactor designs. This funding will also provide support for pre-licensing engagement between vendors and regulators.

Government is investing up to £44 million in the Advanced Modular Reactor (AMR) Feasibility and Development (F&D) project, a 2-stage advanced modular reactor programme, administered by Innovate UK:

Reforming the Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board (NIRAB)

BEIS has commissioned the Nuclear Innovation and Research Office (NIRO) to convene a new structure for the Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board (NIRAB). The new structure will widen the remit of the Advisory Board, building on the success of the original structure. NIRO are seeking expressions of interest from experts to fill a number of roles in the new structure. Further details and an application form can be downloaded.

The new Advisory Board will be responsible for providing independent advice to government on:

  • the impact and delivery of government’s nuclear innovation programme
  • opportunities for greater collaboration with industry and international partners
  • the potential for innovation to reduce the cost of the nuclear life cycle.

NIRAB was convened by government as part of the 2013 nuclear industrial strategy. The Board was convened from 2014-2016 and consisted of independent experts from industry, academia and key nuclear research facilities. The Board was chaired by Dame Sue Ion and produced a number of annual reports together with well received recommendations on research needs within the UK nuclear landscape.

Innovation in nuclear fusion technologies

Nuclear fusion is the process that powers the sun and harnessing this process to deliver clean, inexhaustible energy is the goal of global fusion research. This technology is less developed than fission energy generation technology but is a promising field of research that could have global implications in the future. In addition, there is a clear link between the technologies that support fission and fusion energy research such as robotics, advanced materials and computing that can be exploited for the benefit of the UK nuclear sector as whole.

The UK’s fusion research programme and contributions to international fusion programmes such as JET and ITER are managed by the UK Atomic Energy Authority. Research funding for the UK fusion programme is managed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Published 3 November 2016
Last updated 7 December 2017 + show all updates
  1. Nuclear innovation phase 2 funding.
  2. Expression of interest for roles in NIRO.
  3. Updates from Clean Growth Strategy.
  4. Reform of NIRAB
  5. Closed procurement rounds removed.
  6. First published.