UK government launches Great British Nuclear to accelerate nuclear development and oversee competition for funding next generation technologies
The UK government officially launched Great British Nuclear (GBN), an arms-length body operating through a repurposed British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) Ltd to deliver the government’s long-term nuclear program and support the government’s ambition to deliver up to 24GW of nuclear power in the UK by 2050.
This could mean nearly a quarter of the UK’s total power demands being met by low-carbon, secure nuclear energy, supporting the UK’s energy security, and contributing to net zero targets.
GBN’s first priority is to administer a competitive process to select the best small modular reactor (SMR) technologies from around the world. This SMR technology selection process will underpin government’s commitment to two nuclear Project Final Investment Decisions during the next Parliament, with at least one of these being into an SMR project.
GBN has launched the next phase of the SMR technology selection process and invites SMR vendors to register their interest. This is an important next step in identifying those companies best able to reach a project Final Investment Decision (FID) by the end of 2029, which could result in billions of pounds of public and private investment in SMR projects.
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.—Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps
On top of the GBN competition launch, the government also announced today a grant funding package totalling up to £157 million (US$206 million):
Up to £77.1 million (US$101 million) of funding for companies to accelerate advanced nuclear business development in the UK and support advanced nuclear designs to enter UK regulation, maximizing the chance of small and advanced modular reactors being built during the next Parliament.
Up to £58 million (US$76 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 8 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;
more than £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;
more than £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; and
more than £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 UK government made the decision to revitalize the UK nuclear industry by confirming the first state backing of a major nuclear project in more than 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 more than 60 years.