Annual Report 2020
NIRAB Annual Report 2020 - Achieving Net Zero: The role of Nuclear Energy in Decarbonisation
Maximising nuclear’s contribution to Net Zero will not only require the major deployment of further large scale nuclear, capitalising on repeated designs, but also stations that are smaller than those Gigawatt scale units currently preparing for construction and advanced reactors which can contribute to meeting the needs for heat and hydrogen as well as electricity.
NIRAB publishes its work from 2019/20 with a series of recommendations for Government regarding research and development to support implementation of nuclear energy options.
This report provides a summary of the activity of NIRAB since April 2018. It reflects the progress made by NIRAB in formulating advice to Government on the future role of new nuclear energy as a means to achieve net zero by 2050 and in doing so create positive economic impact and jobs. A number of recommendations for action are made.
NIRAB is convinced that new cost-competitive nuclear power must make a significant contribution to meeting the increased demand for low-carbon electricity. It would be prudent to plan for nuclear energy to provide at least half of the firm low carbon electricity not provided by renewables. NIRAB is also convinced that nuclear power has the potential to contribute to the decarbonisation of other energy vectors, playing an increased role in a connected future clean energy system. Further work is required to quantify how nuclear can best support cogeneration; to use a high temperature process to generate hydrogen or synthetic fuels, together with the ability to switch over to delivery of mid-merit electricity, when required.
NIRAB proposes that three streams of nuclear product development and deployment should be progressed to supply the energy needs of the population and support economic prosperity without impacting on climate change or air quality:
- Large scale Light Water Reactors (LWR), which are currently available and suitable for baseload electricity
- Small Modular Reactors (SMR), which are based on the same proven technology and can offer additional flexibility
to meet local energy needs;
- Advanced Modular Reactors (AMR), which typically have a higher temperature output, consequently enabling
them to contribute to decarbonisation through heat and hydrogen production, as well as generate electricity at
NIRAB believes it is time to move forward towards demonstration of both Small Modular Reactor and Advanced Modular Reactor systems with appropriate underpinning R&D programmes to support the decarbonisation of the UK economy. NIRAB makes 6 recommendations to Government to enable this to be achieved.
Annual Report 2018
NIRAB Annual Report 2018/19 - Clean Growth through Innovation – the need for urgent action
This is the first report summarising the work undertaken by NIRAB since it was reconvened in 2018. The report provides an initial set of findings and recommendations to Government in response to questions it posed NIRAB:
- To monitor the delivery and impact of the BEIS Nuclear Innovation Programme and recommend any amendments that may be necessary in the light of outputs from the programme and developments in the nuclear landscape.
- To advise where innovation could drive down costs across the whole nuclear life-cycle
- To identify opportunities for greater collaboration with industry and international partners.
The work to date has yielded some strong recommendations for Government to consider regarding future nuclear energy research and innovation. Foremost is the need for urgent action to accelerate the development and demonstration of technologies that can broaden the role nuclear energy can play in decarbonisation across all energy sectors. Government has an enabling role to play in facilitating the private sector to bring forward technologies and commercial products. NIRAB recommend that BEIS implement the remainder of the current £180 million investment in the Nuclear Innovation Programme as planned – this is already having a significant impact. In addition, from an initial assessment by NIRAB and NIRO, it is recommended that over the next five year spending review period (from 2021), to accelerate innovation, Government should consider investing up to £1 billion; made up of in the region of £300 million to continue to develop cutting edge skills, and enable appropriate UK supply chain capability and capacity; plus in the region of £700 million in providing the infrastructure and cost-sharing incentives for industry to develop and construct Advanced Nuclear Technology demonstrators. In return Government should expect significant private sector leveraged investment.
Annual Reports 2014-16
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.