The National Centre for Nuclear Robotics (NCNR)

  • 400+ peer reviewed scientific papers in four years!
  • 200+ engagement, collaboration and exchange activities with external stakeholders.
  • £8million leveraging from industry,
  • £10million institutional investment and additional funding
  • Training of 60+ early career post-doc and PhD researchers in advanced robotics for industrial applications.
  • Worldwide impact on policy, regulation and guidance to governments, nuclear agencies and operators.
  • National and international education outreach in schools to inspire the next generation of engineers and roboticists.
  • Innovation, technology transfer and commercialisation impacts across nuclear and other industries.
  • World first AI-controlled robot arm in live radioactive environment.
  • World-first deployments of autonomous drones at Chernobyl and Fukushima.

The National Centre for Nuclear Robotics, established in 2018, is a consortium of eight universities and affiliated partners tasked with finding fresh solutions to the well-established problem of nuclear waste. Nuclear decommissioning and the safe disposal of nuclear waste is a global problem of enormous proportions. The UK alone contains 4.9 million tonnes of legacy nuclear waste. The need to retrieve and dispose of contaminated materials while protecting the natural world and minimising radiation exposure has never been more pressing. NCNR members have responded to this need by developing ground-breaking techniques for monitoring nuclear sites and disposing of radioactive material without endangering human life. Research into remote-controlled robots has taken centre stage in the NCNR’s ambitious project. The challenge is to develop a new generation of autonomous, self-healing robots capable of carrying out complex tasks in contaminated environments while an operator oversees their work from a safe distance. As a result of the inspirational work of consortium members and partners over the past four years, significant advances have been made in remote interventions using robotics. Many NCNR projects are making excellent progress through the UK’s Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs), with a variety of advanced robotics systems and approaches spanning TRL 3-7. 

Professor Rustam Stolkin

Chair of Robotics, Director of NCNR

“Thanks in no small part to the work of NCNR, there seems little doubt that we are on the cusp of a new era in nuclear decommissioning, where state-of-the-art robotics and AI methods will become standard in solving the problems presented by the nuclear industry.”


In four and a half years of funded activity, the National Centre for Nuclear Robotics has delivered arguably the most productive project in the history of UK robotics research. As a result of this activity, over 400 novel, peer-reviewed scientific papers have been published, and high TRL has been delivered (following demonstrations and deployments on prominent nuclear sites in the UK and internationally). In addition, NCNR researchers have liaised with national and international nuclear agencies worldwide, and further collaborations have been forged between NCNR members and researchers from non-nuclear industries. Outreach work resulting has impacted school children and the wider public, and training programmes have boosted the work prospects of early-career roboticists.

This work has established the UK as a global leader in the development of advanced robotics for nuclear and other hazardous environments, placing UK in a strong position as the expanding decommissioning market opens up to these highly disruptive technologies. The consortium will continue to liaise and function as a body moving forward, providing a key national resource of expertise for nuclear and other industries seeking advice or assistance on advanced robotics.


Peter Brewer

NCNR Project manager

“We would especially like to thank National Nuclear Laboratory Ltd, Sellafield Ltd, KUKA UK, and the numerous other companies, small and large, nationally and internationally, that have provided an impressive level of commitment in terms of active collaboration, access to key industry sites and facilities, direct funding and in-kind support. We also thank the EPSRC and the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund for providing the grant resource to enable the academics to undertake this work.”