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UK government announces £200m funding for nuclear industry projects

28 June 2018

On June 27, UK Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark announced a £200m Nuclear Sector Deal (NSD), including establishing a £40m facility to support the design of advanced nuclear technologies at Trawsfynydd in north Wales. This site, which houses two first generation Magnox reactors currently being decommissioned, could be the location for the first UK small modular reactor (SMR).

Trawsfynydd nuclear power station - Image: Magnox
Trawsfynydd nuclear power station - Image: Magnox

The Business and Energy Secretary said the UK-wide deal funded by public and private money would also include:
* Up to £56m for research and development for "advanced modular reactors"
* £86m UK government funding for a national fusion technology platform at Culham, Oxfordshire
* £32m for an advanced manufacturing and construction programme
* £30m for a new national supply chain programme
* A commitment from industry to reduce the cost of new nuclear build projects by 30% by 2030, and the cost of decommissioning old nuclear sites by 20% by 2030
* A new review to look at ways to accelerate the clean-up of nuclear legacy sites
* A commitment to increasing gender diversity in the civil nuclear workforce with a target of 40% women in nuclear by 2030

While the bulk of the money is a re-announcement of support pledged last year, industry insiders say the site chosen to launch the sector deal is important. Trawsfynydd could be the UK development site of small and inexpensive SMRs, considered by some to have a more positive future than traditional, large scale nuclear plants such as the huge Hinkley Point C project, currently being built in Somerset.

The advanced modular reactor project will see eight designs go forward to detailed commercial and technical visibility studies. Three or four of the designs will then go forward to a second phase for further development, with a possible £40m of further funding subject to a value for money approval from the Treasury. Up to £5m will be made available to regulators to support this, and up to £7m will fund capability and capacity to assess and licence small and novel reactor designs.
Duncan Hawthorne, CEO of Horizon Nuclear Power, the company behind the Wylfa Newydd new-build nuclear power station project on nearby Anglesey, welcomed the proposals: "It's a clear demonstration of how government and industry will work together to ensure nuclear continues to play a crucial role in providing clean, secure power for the UK, as well as delivering jobs, skills and investment across the country," he said.

Matt Rooney, engineering policy advisor at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said the funding could turn north Wales into a "world leading industrial cluster".

Welcoming the deal, the Welsh Government said it had led the way in supporting the nuclear sector in Wales.

The establishment of a national fusion technology centre builds on work already carried out at Culham in Oxfordshire, the site of the Joint European Torus (JET) fusion experiment and the home of Tokomak Technologies, which is developing fusion reactors based on tokomak containment technology.

As regards gender diversity, the UK nuclear industry has a 22% female workforce, and 15% of its engineers are women. The NSD will deliver 100,000 new jobs in the sector by 2021, and it aims to increase female representation to 40% by 2030.

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