The United Kingdom and France have pledged GBP12.5 million ($18.6 million) in funding for the Jules Horowitz research reactor, a 100MWt materials testing reactor to be built in France.

The funding will allow UK-based academics and the nuclear industry "guaranteed access" to the reactor, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), said in a statement.

The UK National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) has been asked to lead the UK’s involvement in the work.

It said that having access to facilities that provide information on how nuclear fuel and materials behave in a nuclear reactor is an "essential part" of any advanced fuel or reactor development programme.

"Both regulators and utilities view such test facilities as vital in terms of providing underpinning safety research, operational data and computer code validation data for a relatively low cost," NNL said in a statement.

NNL managing director Paul Howarth welcomed the news, referring to it as "an important step towards returning the UK to the international ‘top table’ in the arena of civil nuclear R&D."

Jules Horowitz Reactor (JHR) is currently under construction at the Cadarache site in France is expected to begin operation at the end of 2016, according to CEA.