NIRAB Final Report: 2014-16
This Final Report summarises the work of NIRAB and its subgroups over its three year tenure, detailing the recommendations it has made to Ministers and comments on progress to date. The recommendations are the product of a broad range of expert input, with consensus reached across industry, academia, and national laboratories.
2016 saw the launch of the first £20m phase of the BEIS Nuclear Innovation Programme which is an important first step in progressing NIRAB’s research recommendations. Following up this initial commitment will set the UK on course to design, manufacture and build the reactors of the future.
NIRAB delivers its final set of recommendations in this report and urges Government and industry to take these on board in developing the nuclear sector deal as part of the UK’s modern industrial strategy. It is essential that research and innovation is integrated from the outset if we are to maximise the huge potential that nuclear offers as a source of low carbon energy and economic growth.
NIRAB Annual Report 2015
2015 was a crucial year for nuclear R&D as Government budgets were set for the Parliament and Government signaled investment in Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). The Chancellor, through the Government’s spending review, provided a much needed new source of funding for energy innovation.
NIRAB’s second annual report describes the work undertaken in 2015, the focus for NIRAB this year has been to review the UK nuclear innovation capability, capacity and portfolio. NIRAB have made strategic recommendations in this annual report and have published future UK programme recommendations in a separate report. All of the recommendations have been formulated in order to best direct Government investment to maximise the benefit for both energy and industrial policy.
Given the exciting new opportunities presented by SMRs and the UK’s nuclear new build programme, there is an urgency to establish Government’s new programmes of R&D which require clear short and long term objectives. There is also the need to co-ordinate across the publically funded nuclear R&D landscape and to provide a national governance structure.
This annual report and NIRAB’s UK programme recommendations along with Governments financial commitment should provide industry and the research community with the confidence to plan for the future.
NIRAB Annual Report 2014
NIRAB’s first Annual Report summarises the work carried out during 2014, for which the focus has been on identifying where research and innovation is needed as a priority to underpin Government and industry’s vision of a vibrant nuclear sector. The vision is for nuclear energy to play a significant role in delivering a secure, sustainable and affordable low carbon energy future, and to create an industrial sector that makes a positive contribution to the economy through high value jobs and exports.
NIRAB concludes there is a clear gap in the UK’s R&D activity into next generation nuclear reactor technologies, including SMRs and Generation IV reactors, and their associated fuel cycles. This is an area of increasing activity in leading nuclear nations worldwide and in which the UK should play a key role if the vision for the sector is to be met.
There is an urgent need to take action to address a looming crisis in relation to the continued availability of the high level skills which are required by both industry and the regulator. This skills issue has arisen, in part, as a result of a 20 year gap in funding in the UK for nuclear R&D into future nuclear energy technologies. The age profile of the high level R&D skill base is unsustainable, with the majority of experts rapidly approaching or already past the age of retirement.
NIRAB recommends that Government should commission a programme of research and innovation aimed at not only addressing the urgent skills issue and developing the next generation of experts, but also positioning UK industry to gain a significant stake in a global future nuclear reactor market delivering huge benefits to the UK economy over many decades.