Source: World Nuclear News | September 14, 2018

The UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) and the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have agreed to cooperate on nuclear energy research. The announcement came as the UK and USA signed a nuclear R&D action plan.

Under the memorandum of understanding (MoU) – which aims to leverage both organisation’s expertise and capabilities – NNL and ORNL will collaborate on nuclear-related projects through idea sharing, staff exchanges and joint workshops. The collaboration will include developing modelling and simulation tools for advanced nuclear reactors, exploring accident-tolerant fuel concepts, developing management and assessment techniques for used fuel, and pursuing the production of isotopes for space, medical and industrial applications. The agreement will run for three years.

“The goal in each area is to provide different perspectives on how the two organisations tackle difficult research questions that meet the needs of the nuclear community,” ORNL said.

NNL is known for its Nuclear Fuels Centre of Excellence and in-house high-performance computing capabilities. In addition, the laboratory has established analysis tools including the Orion fuel cycle modelling code and the Enigma fuel performance code. ORNL’s nuclear capabilities span similar offerings that include the internationally recognised Scale code system, the Virtual Environment for Reactor Applications analysis tools from the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors and various R&D facilities for nuclear applications.

“It is an exciting opportunity to expand what we do as a national laboratory, and potentially do it better, through such a unique partnership with a leading nuclear institution like NNL,” said Alan Icenhour, associate laboratory director for the Nuclear Science and Engineering Directorate at ORNL. “This agreement brings together two globally recognised leaders to continue answering our respective nations’ calls for excellence in nuclear science and technology.”

Paul Howarth, CEO of NNL, said: “I am delighted to reach agreement on this pioneering new MoU with ORNL, which will allow us to build on our already well-established relationship. Together we will draw on the world-leading expertise from our respective organisations and use our complementary skills and knowledge to further nuclear energy-related research and development. This will include the development of exciting and innovative technologies of the future.”

Nuclear round table

The agreement between NNL and ORNL was announced during a meeting of UK and US decision and policy makers held earlier this week. The UK-US Nuclear Round Table was held at the British Embassy in Washington, DC, and was jointly hosted by NNL and the UK’s Department for International Trade, and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The event provided attendees with a senior briefing on UK and US policy developments affecting the sector as well as opportunities to discuss challenges and barriers between the two countries.

Rob Whittleston, VP Insight at NNL, said: “At a time of significant sector developments for our respective nations, this event brings together senior industry representatives and policy makers from both sides of the Atlantic.”

He added, “In addition to UK and US policy updates, attendees heard tangible examples of industry experience of delivering value via successful UK-US collaboration in nuclear, and about the need to drive disruptive innovation into the sector. This was followed by a facilitated round table session which was a chance for industry representatives and policy makers to discuss opportunities and challenges, and consider how we can work more effectively together aligned to the policy/strategy ambitions of both nations, including through a commercial lens.”

UK-USA action plan

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Nuclear Energy announced on 13 September that an action plan between the USA and UK had been finalised. The purpose of the plan – signed in Washington, DC, by the DOE and BEIS – is “to ensure nuclear energy’s contribution to both countries’ strategic energy resources, low carbon emissions targets, non-proliferation goals and nuclear energy safety objectives,” it said.

“The action plan seeks to facilitate cooperation in R&D for advanced civilian nuclear energy technologies between the two countries,” DOE said. “Both recognise a variety of approaches and technical pathways are needed to achieve optimal development of civil nuclear technologies over the long-term.”

The plan calls for working groups to look at the following areas: radioisotopes for use in space technologies; nuclear reactor technologies; advanced fuels; fuel cycle technologies; advanced modelling and simulation; and, enabling technologies.

“Agreement of the US and UK action plan allows us to move forward and focus on a number of key advances in nuclear energy, including reactors and fuels,” said Ed McGinnis, principal deputy assistant secretary of the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy. “Both countries recognise the value of bilateral cooperation in nuclear energy innovation.”

DOE noted the new action plan will complement, not replace, existing mechanisms of cooperation and build on the current collaboration between the USA and UK in the university, laboratory and industry sectors.

In June, BEIS said the UK had signed a new Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with the USA, the first in a series of new international agreements “ensuring uninterrupted cooperation and trade” following the UK’s exit from the European Union in March next year.