University of Leicester and National Nuclear Laboratory sign an agreement with Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute on future space battery design

The memorandum of understanding (MoU) pledges new areas of cooperation on research on radioisotope thermoelectric power generators for use in space exploration. The development of these technologies will enable space missions that can access ever distant, cold, dark and inhospitable environments. The MoU also signs up to developing international standards and safety associated with these space systems.

The University of Leicester and National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) are leading the development of radioisotope thermoelectric generators and heater units as part of a European Space Agency (ESA) programme. This work is being carried out in collaboration with a host of industry and academic partners in the UK, France and Germany.

Professor Iain Gillespie, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Research and Engineering, echoed by Professor Richard Ambrosi, who leads the space nuclear power activities at University of Leicester said:

"Missions using nuclear power offer greater versatility in challenging environments. In many cases nuclear systems can enable missions that would otherwise be impossible. As part of our efforts to support the global exploration roadmap we should strive for greater international cooperation. This approach is part of a broader strategy of space sector innovation that embodies the Space Park Leicester programme.”

Dr Young Uk Jeong, Senior Vice President for Quantum Science Convergence at KAERI said:

“This MoU will provide our respective countries with opportunities to pursue new avenues of collaboration and to discuss ways of increasing substantive cooperation in space nuclear power systems.”

Gareth Davies, Head of Science, Innovation and Energy, Economic Diplomacy Section, British Embassy Seoul, said:

‘This is a powerful example of the value of UK-Korea cooperation in the development of novel technologies, and demonstrates the importance of cross border innovation globally. It is our hope that this partnership will not only strengthen the research links between the University of Leicester and KAERI, but of our two countries.’

Tim Tinsley, Account Director, Special Nuclear Materials & Radioisotopes at the National Nuclear Laboratory said:

“Nuclear systems are a fantastic enabling technology for a wide range of space missions. NNL are delighted to be part of this agreement that uses waste material from part of the nuclear fuel cycle in a new and exciting way that generate value and delivers new knowledge on the solar system.”