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UK government announces further support for nuclear and hydrogen

06 January 2023

The UK government announced £102 million of backing for nuclear and hydrogen innovation in December. The funding includes £77 million to bolster nuclear fuel production and support the development of the next generation of advanced nuclear reactors, along with £25 million for technologies that can produce hydrogen from sustainable biomass and waste, while removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Image: UK gov
Image: UK gov

Up to £60 million will be used to kick start the next phase of research into the new cutting-edge high temperature gas reactor (HTGR), a type of advanced modular reactor (AMR), which could be up and running by the early 2030s. The funding, from the Advanced Modular Reactor R&D programme, aims to get a demonstration project of the engineering design up and running by the end of the decade. 

HTGRs are typically smaller than conventional nuclear power stations, more flexible, and could be built at a fraction of a cost, the government said. It is hoped that as well as safely creating electricity to power homes, HTGRs will bolster the UK’s energy sovereignty and security, by reducing reliance on expensive fossil fuels, as well as generate by-products such as low-carbon hydrogen.

Another part of the funding is for nuclear fuel fabricators Westinghouse in Preston, which has strategic importance to producing fuel for the current UK advanced gas cooled reactor fleet, the government said. The £13 million of funding will mean the UK has the option of being less reliant on imports from abroad and helps the company develop the capability convert both reprocessed uranium and freshly mined uranium to make new fuel.

In terms of hydrogen, the government has committed £25 million to accelerate the deployment of hydrogen from bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). Biomass absorbs CO2 during growth which is then captured and permanently stored during the hydrogen generation process. The funding will go directly towards progressing BECCS projects from the design stage to demonstration, supporting the technology to eventually become integrated as part of our everyday energy system.

Coinciding with the funding announcement, the UK government also published the ‘UK Hydrogen Strategy update to the market: December 2022’, summarising the government’s action to advance the hydrogen economy since the last update this summer. Activity undertaken by government in the last few months includes:

- Funding 9 projects through the £26 million Industrial Hydrogen Accelerator competition
- Launching the first Electrolytic Hydrogen Allocation Round, which offers joint support through the Net Zero Hydrogen Fund and Hydrogen Production Business Model
- Announcing the shortlisted CCUS-enabled hydrogen projects in the Cluster Sequencing Process
- Publishing a consultation on hydrogen transport and storage infrastructure

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