Strategic Research

Strategic Research encompasses the non-for-profit programmes we run for government and other key stakeholders, all of which fulfil a technical challenge of national importance.

The funding model is based on a fully-costed direct investment, with the programmes typically requiring a considerably larger investment than our Core Science initiatives.

In collaboration with our partner organisations, we currently help deliver two world-leading Strategic Research programmes.

Advanced Fuel Cycle Programme (AFCP)

Evolving advanced fuels and recycling concepts to elevate the UK’s clean energy innovation.

AFCP is a multi-disciplinary programme that is supporting the nation’s transition to net zero by 2050 and, in the process, providing a platform for UK manufacturing and engineering businesses to expand and innovate.

Alpha Resilience Capability (ARC)

Sustaining and enhancing the UK’s world-leading alpha skills capabilities.

Led by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), the programme is a collaboration of industry partners focused on ensuring the UK maintains alpha resilience in capability and skills for decommissioning, long term material storage, and disposition in addition to future clean energy advancement. Our experts lend essential support to ARC by driving Plutonium research and development, and leading on the Technical Workstream.

NNL’s Advanced Fuel Cycle Programme (AFCP)

“Not only has the programme enabled the UK to re-engage in future fuel technology development but it has also helped galvanise the sector behind the potential of advanced nuclear technologies.”

Dr Paul Nevitt Technical Director of AFCP

Dr Paul Nevitt is the Technical Director of AFCP, which forms part of the £505 million BEIS Energy Innovation Programme.

“Our understanding of the nuclear fuel cycle is fundamental to nuclear’s ability to realise a net zero future. Since 2019, NNL has been leading AFCP in partnership with BEIS to deliver world-leading fuel cycle science and technology that is helping to secure affordable clean energy options for the UK.

Not only has the programme enabled the UK to re-engage in future fuel technology development but it has also helped galvanise the sector behind the potential of advanced nuclear technologies. Over the past years, we have worked in partnership with over 100 organisations worldwide, collaborating with leading industrial, academic and research institutions, to develop capabilities across AFCP’s 11 key themes – covering advanced nuclear fuels to advanced recycle and sustainability.

Likewise, within NNL, implementing a large-scale programme such as this requires extensive collaboration between many of our teams and experts. AFCP is intrinsically linked to our ultimate purpose and specifically to our Clean Energy ambitions. Innovations that are therefore made in our Core Science areas often feed directly into AFCP’s work, helping us to continue pushing the boundaries and maximising the programme’s potential.

Now as we look to the future, we want to elevate the technologies that have been developed so far, so that we can continue to secure a sustainable future. To this end, we have recently published a series of research, development and demonstration (RD&D) technology roadmaps, focused particularly on fuel manufacture and used fuel management.

Designed to aid the thinking of policy makers and stakeholders across the nuclear sector, the roadmaps set out a pathway that would, proactively and critically, allow the UK to build on its existing fuel cycle capabilities and help realise our national ambitions to become a scientific superpower.”

What’s next for Strategic Research

We have always been involved in Strategic Research at NNL but breaking it out as a distinct body of work – as we have done in this Agenda – is entirely new.

Over the next five years, we will build up our existing Strategic Research programmes and continue to provide the necessary training and development for nuclear scientists and engineers across the sector to ensure they run successfully.

Working with key stakeholders and organisations across the sector we will deliver additional Strategic Research programmes. In doing so, we will look to stimulate supply chains, grow partnerships with other national laboratories, industry, academia and government, and create value for money wherever we can.

We will also continue to explore further opportunities for us to support next-generation clean energy technologies, such as advanced reactors, materials and hydrogen production routes.

2.2 Collaboration