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Long-term partnership to help UK compete in global nuclear industry

26 March 2013

An industrial strategy, has been published today (March 26) to enable the UK to seize the opportunities for economic growth in the nuclear industry.

Developed by government and industry, it covers the whole of the nuclear market – new build, waste management and decommissioning, fuel cycle services, operations and maintenance.

This follows the launch of the aerospace strategy last week and is the next step in the government’s industrial strategy. A plan for oil and gas will be published later this week with strategies for all eleven key sectors being completed in the coming months to secure sustainable future growth in the economy.

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

The strategy is being overseen by a Nuclear Industry Council, co-chaired by ministers and industry. It includes a wide range of commitments, including:

- £15 million for a new world class National Nuclear Users Facility for universities and companies carrying out research into nuclear technology. The facility will have centres at the National Nuclear Laboratory at Sellafield, the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire and the University of Manchester’s Dalton Cumbrian Facility.
- 35 nuclear research and development projects have won £18 million worth of support from a Technology Strategy Board competition, which will leverage in a further £13 million of private sector investment. This includes OC Robotics in Bristol who have received almost £6 million to develop their LaserSnake technology – a robot controlled laser cutting tool that can be used as part of nuclear decommissioning projects.
- £12.5 million to join the Jules Horowitz Test Reactor programme which is being constructed in France. The reactor will provide the UK with a valuable radiation testing facility to develop future advance nuclear fuels.

The government spent £66m in 2011 on nuclear research and development and will keep under review its level of future expenditure. It is keen to explore opportunities to back future reactor designs, including the feasibility of launching a Small Modular Reactor (SMR) R&D programme to ensure that the UK is a key partner of any new reactor design for the global market.

Government is making some changes to the role and organisation of the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) so that it plays a more central role in advising government on nuclear matters and in strategic research projects.

Nuclear new build in the UK is forecast to generate up to 40,000 jobs in the sector at its peak, but employers are currently reporting skills shortages – particularly in engineering. Tackling the skills gaps will be one of the actions to be taken forward through a focussed Skills Delivery Plan led by the Nuclear Energy Skills Alliance.

UKTI will develop a strategy aimed at attracting inward investment as well as promoting export opportunities.

The results of a major review into research and development capability in the UK have also been published today. The review has helped to shape the industrial strategy and was carried out by government, industry and academia, assisted by an Advisory Board chaired by Sir John Beddington, the government’s Chief Scientific Advisor. It was instigated in response to a House of Lords inquiry.

The Board’s recommendations recognise that nuclear power will continue to play an important role in the UK to 2050 and beyond and that a wide range of technologies may be required to meet the challenges of an expanded demand for nuclear power. Therefore, the Board recommended concrete action in a number of areas to ensure that technological options for nuclear power generation are kept open in the future. The industrial strategy forms a major part of the government’s response to these recommendations.

Planning consent was given last week for construction of the first new nuclear power station in the UK since 1995. The planned multi-billion pound project at Hinkley Point, Somerset – to be operated by NNB Generation - will generate enough low carbon electricity to power the equivalent of five million households, making it one of the largest power stations in the UK.

The nuclear industrial strategy can be found here.


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