The government has been urged to an invest an additional £1 billion in its Nuclear Innovation Programme by 2025 on top of the £180 million it has already pledged to spend by 2021.
The Nuclear Research and Advisory Board (NIRAB) says £600 million should be spent on a demonstration programme for advanced nuclear technologies, including small modular reactors, and that at least one of these pilots should be up and running by the mid-2020s.
It says a roadmap for new-build nuclear running out to 2050 should also be developed “as a matter of urgency”.
“Government support for the demonstration of new, advanced concepts is essential for attracting and making feasible the necessary scale of private investment,” the board explains in a new report.
“No matter how promising or potentially cost effective it is, a new reactor design can only go to market with the benefit of government cooperation on a range of issues.”
The NIRAB, which was reconvened in 2018 following a two-year hiatus, says the money being spent as part the Nuclear Innovation Programme is “already having an impact in rejuvenating capability and enabling the UK to participate in international programmes”.
Annual funding is expected to reach £50 million between now and 2021. The report says it is “imperative” that funding does not drop below this level over the following years if the UK is to achieve its nuclear ambitions.
Between 2021 and 2025, the programme should focus on “accelerating technology development and moving into demonstration of multiple technologies”. In addition to spending £600 million on demonstration projects, the government should invest £100 million in supporting infrastructure and £300 million in developing “key UK capabilities” and the supply chain.
The report says the extra funding should be contingent on the industry showing how it plans to deliver the 30 per cent reduction in new-build nuclear costs it promised by 2030 as part of the nuclear sector deal announced in June.
It says a new delivery body should also be established to oversee the programme and ensure it delivers value for money.
A spokeperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “The UK has the potential to lead the world in innovative nuclear technology, as part of our drive to boost clean energy.
“As this report recognises, our investment in advanced nuclear technologies through our £200 million nuclear sector deal is already having a significant impact.
“We’re also working with industry to explore whether small modular reactors could be an important source of low-carbon energy.”