The UK government has today published a business blueprint to enable it to “become a top table nuclear nation”.

The nuclear industrial strategy follows a similar roadmap for the aerospace industry launched last week, while one for the oil and gas sector is to be unveiled in the next few days.

The strategy covers the whole of the nuclear food chain, from new build, waste management and decommissioning to fuel cycle services and operations and maintenance.

It has been drawn up by the Nuclear Industry Council, which has been set up and is chaired by ministers and industry.

It has earmarked £15m to create a National Nuclear Users Facility for universities and companies to carry out research. The facility will have three bases in England – at the National Nuclear Laboratory at Sellafield, the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire and the University of Manchester’s Dalton Cumbrian Facility.

The government believes that Britain’s new build programme could generate up to 40,000 jobs – yet the UK has not built a new reactor in more than a decade and as such is suffering from an engineering skills gap. To tackle this, the Nuclear Energy Skills Alliance is to launch what it calls a skills delivery plan.

The launch of the Nuclear Industry Council comes on the back of the government giving the go-ahead for EDF’s plans to build a new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point (pictured). Discussions between ministers and the French company are ongoing regarding a ‘strike price’ for power generated from the proposed plant, yet both parties will be keen to seal the deal as quickly as possible.

The UK also announced earlier this month that it was putting £12.5m into the Jules Horowitz Test Reactor, which is being constructed in France. The reactor will provide the UK with a valuable radiation testing facility to develop future advance nuclear fuels.

The government is also thinking about launching a small modular reactor R&D programme, “to ensure that the UK is a key partner of any new reactor design for the global market”.

UK Business Secretary Vince Cable today said the nuclear industry “presents significant multi-billion pound long-term opportunities for UK companies and for thousands of high value jobs”.

He said Britain had “some of the finest workers, research facilities and academics in the world, but we need to sharpen those competitive advantages to become a top table nuclear nation”.

Nuclear Industry Association chairman Lord Hutton said: “I warmly welcome this Nuclear Industrial Strategy as evidence of the fruitful partnership between government and industry in setting the direction of travel for the UK to achieve its ambitions to be a leading nuclear nation.”

The government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir John Beddington, said nuclear power “will play a pivotal role in the UK’s energy future” and added that “the requirement for nuclear power may exceed current plans for new build, perhaps substantially”.

“It’s therefore crucial that we keep a wide range of technological options open so that we are able to meet this potential demand in a safe and sustainable manner. Today’s announcements on R&D and on skills are the first steps in doing exactly that.”