The Nuclear Research Index NRI is the regulator’s considered opinion on the need for safety related research relating to operating nuclear reactors. It is produced by ONR, in consultation with licensees. The NRI identifies the overall regulatory challenges, opportunities and objectives for nuclear safety related research and details strategies for 13 technical areas.
Licensee use the NRI to inform their wider nuclear research strategies, which set out the companies’ overall research and development needs.
The main driving force behind the programmes of nuclear safety research is the need to gain intelligence on issues that might undermine safe operation of UK nuclear facilities in the future if not properly managed. Research work is necessary to investigate the safety implications of such matters through life ageing, as well as the maintenance of adequate safety cases for the facilities.
Nuclear safety starts with the production of safety cases by the licensees to justify the safe operation of their nuclear plant. These safety cases are based on the original design data and assumptions regarding through life ageing effects. The operators must undertake a continuous programme of research work to continue the validation and maintenance of these safety cases by gathering data from the operating nuclear plant and developing predictive mathematical modelling techniques. Without this work the operating nuclear stations would reach the limits of their existing safety justifications and would then need to be shutdown earlier than might be the case otherwise.