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Nuclear R&D roadmap promised by end of year

The government will publish a long-term strategy for nuclear energy by summer 2012 and a roadmap for nuclear research and development later in the year.

The pledge, which has not been backed by additional funding, was made on 20 February in response to a report by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, published last November.

The report said that the UK was complacent about its nuclear R&D and warned that other countries invested far more in the area. To tackle the problems, it recommended establishing a long-term strategy and an R&D roadmap.

The government has now said it will publish a strategy on the role of nuclear energy up to and beyond 2050. The strategy, which is to draw on recent reports including the committee report and a Royal Society paper on the nuclear fuel cycle, should be published by the summer, it added.

The response commits to developing an R&D roadmap alongside the strategy, to be published by the end of the year. The basis for the roadmap, it said, would be a review led by the government’s chief scientific adviser, John Beddington.

The government has taken up a committee recommendation to set up an advisory board on nuclear R&D, to be chaired by Beddington.

However, before considering additional funding, it said, it needed to better understand the funding situation through the development of the strategy.

“We understand from the nuclear community that R&D would need to ramp up through a phased approach and therefore that any need for additional funding can be considered in parallel with developing the means of funding them,” reads the response.

“So as well as considering whether further public funding is needed there is time to explore alternative sources of funding to be found from other sources outside of the UK or from the commercial world.”

The government did not comment on a committee statement that, if the government was to make a credible case for meeting its energy goals, it needed to increase funding for fission research “in the order of £20 million–£50m a year”.

In a statement welcoming the response, John Krebs, chairman of the committee, said the strategy and roadmap “will be important in ensuring the government has access to the best advice based on the knowledge and understanding of people with internationally recognised nuclear expertise.

“Whilst the government have responded positively to our report, as ever, the devil will be in the detail. We will assess the Government’s strategy when it is published and my Committee will wish to return to this issue in the future,” he added.