The UK’s Advanced Modular Reactor Research, Development and Demonstration (AMR RD&D) program has awarded £3.3 million (US$3.8 million) to support six projects focused on the development of high temperature gas reactors (HTGRs). The AMR funding represents another step in the government’s plans to accelerate homegrown nuclear power to strengthen the UK’s energy security.
High / Very High Temperature Reactors (HTGRs / VHTRs) are primarily dedicated to the generation of electricity and/or high temperature heat—with hydrogen, being extracted from water by using thermo-chemical, electro-chemical or hybrid processes. Its high outlet temperature makes it attractive also for the chemical, oil and iron industries.
The technical basis for VHTR is the TRi-structural ISOtropic (TRISO)-coated particle fuel, the graphite as the core structure, helium coolant, as well as the dedicated core layout and lower power density for removal of decay heat via passive mechanisms (such as natural convection). The VHTR has potential for inherent safety, high thermal efficiency, process heat application capability, and modular construction.
HTGR systems can supply nuclear heat and electricity over a range of core outlet temperatures between 700 and 950 °C, or more than 1000 °C as a future target for VHTR. The reactor core type of the VHTR can be a prismatic block core, such as the Japanese HTTR, or a pebble-bed core such as the Chinese HTR-10. Although the shape of the fuel element for the two configurations are different, the technical basis for both configurations are similar, such as the TRISO coated particle fuel in a graphite matrix, full ceramic (graphite) core structure, helium coolant, and low power density.
This investment will help unlock the potential for new nuclear reactors in the UK, as we drive forward plans to boost clean, cutting-edge, homegrown technologies for our energy security, while driving down bills in the long term.—Energy Minister Greg Hands
£2.5 million (US$2.9 million) of the funding is going to 6 projects seeking to develop Advanced Modular Reactors (AMRs) in the UK.
U-Battery Developments Ltd in Slough is receiving £499,845 (US$575,000) for a study to determine the optimum size, type, cost, and delivery method for an UBattery AMR suitable for demonstration in the UK.
EDF Energy Nuclear Generation Ltd in Gloucester and Hartlepool is receiving £499,737 (US$575,000) focusing on end-user requirements to determine the reactor design characteristics most suitable for a HTGR demonstration in the 2030s. EDF proposes the Hartlepool Heat Hub as a host site for the UK’s first HTGR demonstration.
Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation UK Ltd in St Helens, Merseyside is receiving £498,312 (US$574,000) for a project that will build on USNC’s existing micro modular reactor (MMR) design as a foundation to develop and demonstrate a modified MMR+ design best suited to UK industry’s current and projected future process heat demands. This includes a demonstration of hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) production.
National Nuclear Laboratory Ltd in Cheshire is receiving £497,495 (US$573,000) for a project that coordinates a UK-Japan team (NNL, Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) and Jacobs) to leverage a proven HTGR baseline from Japan and adopt an innovative approach in its design, build, construction and operation. JAEA has been developing technology for such reactors at a facility northeast of Tokyo.
Springfields Fuels Ltd in Salwick, Lancashire is receiving £243,311 (US$280,000) for a project, in collaboration with Urenco Limited, to support the range of potential HTGR technologies which may come forward in the UK.
National Nuclear Laboratory Ltd in Cheshire is receiving £250,000 (US$288,000) under the Lot 2 Phase A funding, for a project that aims to deliver a domestic commercial fuel supply starting with the first fuel load for the HTGR demonstration.
AMR technology could be a cost-effective solution for decarbonizing industry, typically having higher temperature outputs than conventional reactors. The low carbon, high temperature heat from AMRs could be used for hydrogen production, process heat for industrial and domestic use, as well as electricity generation.
In addition, the government is providing up to £830,000 (US$955,000) to the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency to develop its capability and consider innovative regulatory approaches to high temperature gas reactors (HTGRs). This will help support the government’s plans to have a UK-based HTGR demonstration by the early 2030s.
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) will work with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and their wider estate to explore how to leverage their knowledge, sites and operational experience to inform the development, deployment and operation of the demonstration and to support BEIS policy objectives in this area.