The UK government is committed to tackling climate change through clean growth — cutting emissions while seizing the benefits of the low carbon economy [1,2]. In June 2019 UK government set a legally binding target to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions from across the UK economy by 2050. Nuclear energy is seen as a vital contributor to decarbonising the UK economy as outlined in the Industrial Strategy [2] and subsequent Nuclear Sector Deal [3], and £180 million of funding has been provided by Government for a Nuclear Innovation Programme (NIP) over the period 2016–21, administered through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Initial phases of the NIP have researched advanced nuclear fuel cycles, digital reactor design methods and advanced materials and manufacturing techniques. Throughout this programme the UK has developed a better understanding of a range of Advanced Nuclear Technologies (ANT), including Advanced Modular Reactors (AMRs) and the opportunities that they provide in decarbonising a future energy system. In parallel, UK government has established a policy framework designed to encourage the development of Advanced Nuclear Technologies [4] and awarded an initial phase of development for a Small Modular Reactor (SMR) [5]. These programmes of work are enabling the development of technologies towards commercialisation, whilst enabling regulations are advanced.

For this paper, AMRs are defined as a broad group of advanced nuclear reactors which differ from conventional reactors that use pressurised or boiling water for primary cooling. AMRs use novel cooling systems or fuels and in order to achieve operational efficiencies and enhanced safety performance, they are typically planned to operate in harsh conditions, including high temperatures, radiation field and corrosive environments. As a result of this there are still many questions which need addressing in relation to how materials and fuels will perform in these more extreme conditions. Within the NIP, an Advanced Manufacturing and Construction initiative is supporting answering these questions.

This paper provides an overview of the policy and research landscape that aims to bring AMR and SMR technologies to deployment in the UK, and how the Advanced Manufacturing and Construction initiatives are helping to underpin the R&D needs for AMR deployment in the UK. One example is a programme of work titled “Establishing AMR Structural Integrity Codes and Standards for UK GDA” (EASICS). The aim of this project is to establish guidance on the structural integrity codes and standards that are required to support the Generic Design Assessment (GDA), which is a UK licensing process, of an AMR design through technology innovation and transfer (primarily for high temperature reactors). An overview of project EASICS will be described in further detail in another paper presented at PVP2020, PVP2020-21721.

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