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UK launches new nuclear body and offers £157m in grants

19 July 2023

The UK officially launched its Great British Nuclear (GBN) body on 18 July to help boost energy security, reduce dependence on fossil fuel imports and deliver government priority to grow the economy. Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps also announced a competition to develop small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) as well as making £157 million of grants available.

Hinkley Point C construction site - Image: EDF
Hinkley Point C construction site - Image: EDF

Companies can now register their interest with GBN to participate in a competition to secure funding support to develop their products. This could result in billions of pounds of public and private sector investment in small modular reactor (SMR) projects in the UK, Shapps said.

GBN will play a key role in helping the government hit its ambition to provide up to a quarter of the UK’s electricity from homegrown nuclear energy by 2050. In addition to supporting this emerging, more agile technology, the government remains committed to the mega projects of Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C and will work with GBN to consider the potential role of further large gigawatt-scale nuclear power plants in the UK energy mix.

Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Britain has a rich history as a pioneer of nuclear power, having launched the era of civil nuclear power – and I’m proud to be turbocharging its revival and placing our country once again at the forefront of global innovation.

“By rapidly boosting our homegrown supply of nuclear and other clean, reliable, and abundant energy, we will drive down bills for British homes and make sure the UK is never held to energy ransom by tyrants like Putin.

“Today, as we open Great British Nuclear and the competition to develop cutting-edge small modular reactor technology, which could result in billions of pounds of public and private sector investment, we are seeing the first brush strokes of our nuclear power renaissance to power up Britain and grow our economy for decades to come.”

Minister for Nuclear Andrew Bowie said: “As long-standing pioneers of nuclear, today we’re marking its UK revival with the opening of Great British Nuclear, which will play an essential role in transforming the way we power Britain from Britain.

I look forward to seeing the world-class designs submitted from all around the world through the competitive selection process, as the UK takes its place front and centre in the global race to unleash a new generation of nuclear technology.”

On top of the GBN competition launch, the government also announced a grant funding package totalling up to £157 million:
Up to £77.1 million of funding for companies to accelerate advanced nuclear business development in the UK and support advanced nuclear designs to enter UK regulation, maximising the chance of small and advanced modular reactors being built during the next Parliament.

Up to £58 million funding for the further development and design of a type of advanced modular reactor (AMR) and next generation fuel. AMRs operate at a higher temperature than SMRs and as a result they could provide high temperature heat for hydrogen and other industrial uses alongside nuclear power. The winning projects of this latest phase of funding are:

- Up to £22.5 million to Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation UK in Warrington to further develop the design of a high temperature micro modular reactor, a type of AMR suited to UK industrial demands including hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuel production.

- Up to £15 million to National Nuclear laboratory in Warrington to accelerate the design of a high temperature reactor, following its success in Japan.

- Up to £16 million to National Nuclear Laboratory in Preston to continue to develop sovereign coated particle fuel capability, a type of robust advanced fuel which is suitable for high temperature reactors.

A further £22.3 million from the Nuclear Fuel Fund will enable eight projects to develop new fuel production and manufacturing capabilities in the UK, driving up energy security and supporting the global move away from Russian fuel. Winning projects include:

- Over £10.5 million to Westinghouse Springfields nuclear fuel plant in Preston to manufacture more innovative types of nuclear fuel for customers both in the UK and overseas, boosting jobs and skills in the North West.

- Over £9.5 million to Urenco UK in Capenhurst Chester, an international supplier of nuclear materials, to enrich uranium to higher levels, including LEU+ and high assay low enriched uranium (HALEU). LEU+ will allow for current reactors and SMRs to run for longer between refuelling outages, improving reactor efficiency and economics both in the UK and abroad. HALEU development will ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of fuel development for future advanced reactors.

- Over £1 million has also been awarded to Nuclear Transport Solutions, a subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, to develop transport solutions to facilitate a supply chain for HALEU in the UK and internationally.

- Over £1.2 million to support MoltexFLEX, a UK molten salt reactor developer based in the North West, to build and operate rigs for the development of molten salt fuel. Molten Salt Reactors (MSRs) are an AMR type that use a molten salt as a coolant and fuel, leading to intrinsic safety compared with conventional fuels.

Last year, the government made the decision to revitalise the UK nuclear industry by confirming the first state backing of a major nuclear project in over 30 years, investing £700 million in Sizewell C. Subject to final approval, the project will support 10,000 jobs at peak construction, and provide reliable, low-carbon power to the equivalent of 6 million homes for over 60 years, the government said.

GBN, an arms-length body, will initially be led by Simon Bowen and Gwen Parry-Jones, interim Chair and CEO. Following the launch of the SMR selection process, once the initial stage is complete, GBN will down-select those technologies which have met the criteria, and then enter into detailed discussions with those companies as part of an Invitation to Negotiate phase. The initial down-select will take place in the Autumn.

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