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Parliamentarians Launch Nuclear R&D Inquiry

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee is inviting contributions to its new inquiry into priorities for nuclear research and technologies. In 2011 the Committee investigated whether the UK's research and development (R&D) capabilities were sufficient to meet the country's nuclear energy needs in the future, ensuring a safe and secure supply of nuclear energy up to 2050.

This inquiry, announced today, will now "revisit" some of the conclusions and recommendations of that report and investigate whether the government's actions in response have improved the UK's nuclear R&D capabilities, the Committee said. It will also explore "what more needs to be done" to ensure the UK can meet its future nuclear energy requirements.

The Committee will look specifically at the upcoming decision by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on a small modular reactor (SMR) design for the UK; whether the roles and remit of the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) are "appropriate"; and if the Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board (Nirab) was successful.

Submissions are invited on topics that include: where the responsibility should lie for ensuring the UK has a coherent and consistent long term policy for civil nuclear activities; potential benefits, disadvantages and risks from the deployment of SMRs in the UK and more widely; whether the government is "doing enough" to fund R&D on SMRs, and in "motivating others to do so"; if the NNL is fulfilling its remit appropriately and whether it can deliver the required research to support the UK's future nuclear energy policies; how the NNL compares to equivalent organisations in other countries; how successful Nirab was in carrying out its role and whether a permanent successor body to Nirab is required.

Committee Chairman John Palmer noted that it has been more than five years since the Committee's report into the future of nuclear energy, which found that the government was "too complacent" about the UK's nuclear R&D capabilities. Since its publication, the government has "accepted and acted on" a number of the recommendations of the Committee, which saw the creation of the Nirab, he added.

The new inquiry gives the Committee the opportunity to assess who should have responsibility for ensuring the UK has a coherent and consistent long term policy for civil nuclear activities.

"We are keen to hear from people or organisations who can inform the Committee on the role and remit of the National Nuclear Laboratory or offer insight into how SMRs will benefit the UK and what is needed to support the civil nuclear sector," Palmer said.

Palmer is a hereditary peer representing the Conservative Party in the House of Lords, the upper chamber of the British parliament.

The deadline for written evidence to be received is 24 February.

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