RSC - Advancing the Chemical Sciences

Science Activities


Nuclear energy

Nuclear energy is one of the key challenges we have chosen to currently promote as part of our Chemistry for Tomorrow's World initiatives.

Challenge: Nuclear energy generation is a critical medium term solution to our energy problems. The technical challenge is for the safe and efficient harnessing of nuclear energy, exploring both fission and fusion technologies.

Nuclear power is a low carbon source of electricity and makes an important contribution to of our energy supplies. Without existing nuclear power stations, UK carbon emissions would have been 5-12 per cent higher in 2004 than otherwise.1 Nuclear energy generation is therefore a critical medium-term solution to our energy challenge.

Potential opportunities for the chemical sciences:

  • Research methods for the efficient and safe utilisation of nuclear fission
    • Advance the understanding of the physico-chemical effects of radiation on material fatigue, stresses and corrosion in nuclear power stations
    • Improve methods for spent fuel processing including developing advanced separation technologies (allowing control of chemical selectivity)
    • Design and demonstrate the new generation of advanced reactors including GEN IV based fuel cycles using actinide-based fuels
    • Study the nuclear and chemical properties of the actinide and lanthanide elements
    • Improve understanding of radiation effects on polymers, rubbers and ion exchange material    
  • Nuclear fusion
    • Develop high performance structural materials capable of withstanding extreme operating conditions    

The Role of nuclear power in a low carbon economy, paper 2: Reducing CO2 emissions - Nuclear and the alternatives, Sustainable Development Commission, 2006

Contact and Further Information

RSC Roadmap
Royal Society of Chemistry, Thomas Graham House, Science Park, Milton Road, Cambridge CB4 0WF
Tel: +44 01223 432189