The UK government has today announced it is providing £13m of funding towards nuclear research and development in Britain and has also set up a Nuclear Innovation and Research Office.

The funding is being split between two organisations, with £8m going towards the establishment of a Nuclear Fuel Centre of Excellence, which will work with fuel manufacturers to “play a leading role in the optimisation of current fuel designs and the development of advanced fuels for new reactor systems”.

A further £5m will go to the National Nuclear Laboratory for the launch of Phase 3 of its Central Laboratory at Sellafield in Cumbria.

The NNL says Phase 3 is “a suite of world-leading, heavily shielded ‘hot-cells’ able to handle in safety the most radioactive specimens on the planet. After each piece of work, an individual cell can be removed and cleaned ready for the next task, thus preventing any buildup of background contamination, which can hamper accurate analysis.”

NNL managing director Paul Howarth said the funding announcements – which were made by Energy Minister Michael Fallon, “represent a massive boost to nuclear research capability in the UK and demonstrate the commitment now being shown by government to return the UK to the global top table of nuclear nations”.

He added that the Fuel Centre of Excellence “recognises the extensive capability the UK has in this field and will allow us to play a leading role in national and international work on fuel, advanced reactors and next generation fuel cycles”.

Fallon also announced the establishment of the Nuclear Innovation and Research Office (NIRO), which will act as the body responsible for providing advice to government, industry and other organisations on research and development and innovation opportunities in the nuclear sector under the guidance of the Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board (NIRAB).

NIRAB is due to hold its first meeting at the start of 2014 and it will be chaired by Dame Sue Ion, who began a nuclear career with British Nuclear Fuels in 1979 and is also a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

NIRAB and NIRO will have a remit to advise government and industry on nuclear innovation and R&D into future nuclear energy technologies; co-ordinate UK involvement in international nuclear programmes; ensure public R&D programmes align with industrial and energy policy aims; explore how funding can be secured from government and the private sector; and review the status of UK nuclear innovation and R&D.

Fallon said he had no doubt that “the Nuclear Innovation and Research Office will be a new force in the co-ordination of nuclear research and development in the UK.

“Nuclear power is good for our energy security, good for the economy and supports jobs and thriving communities. We are committed to nuclear power as part of the low carbon mix of our future energy supply and NIRO will help ensure the UK maximises the opportunity.”