U.K. nuclear fuel fund open for bids

January 6, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News

Applications for grants from Britain’s nuclear fuel fund are now being accepted, the U.K. Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced Monday. The application deadline is February 20.

Now totaling £50 million (about $59.5 million), the fund debuted last July. In December, BEIS announced that it was awarding some £13 million (about $15.5 million) from the fund to Westinghouse’s Springfields site. (Located near Preston, Lancashire, in northwestern England, Springfields is the United Kingdom’s only site for nuclear fuel manufacturing, supplying all its advanced gas-cooled reactor fuel.)

According to Monday’s announcement, the nuclear fuel fund is aimed at encouraging investment in new and robust U.K. fuel production capabilities, in keeping with the government’s stated ambition to secure up to 24 GW of nuclear power by 2050 (see last year’s British Energy Security Strategy).

Specific categories of fuel capabilities that have been identified as being of particular importance, BEIS said, include the following:

  • Light water reactor fuel supply.
  • High-assay low-enriched uranium supply chain.
  • Advanced modular reactor fuel fabrication capabilities.
  • Enabling U.K. fuel production capabilities.

The announcement also noted the commitment made by G7 leaders at their June 2022 summit in Schloss Elmau, Germany, to begin concerted action to reduce reliance on civil nuclear and related goods from Russia, including working to diversify their supplies of uranium and nuclear fuel production capability. Russia currently owns approximately 20 percent of global uranium conversion capacity and 40 percent of enrichment capacity.

Official words: “Record high global gas prices, caused by Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, have highlighted the need for more homegrown renewable energy, but also U.K.-generated nuclear power—building more plants and developing domestic fuel capability,” said Graham Stuart, U.K. minister of state for energy and climate. “This investment package will strengthen the U.K.’s energy security by ensuring access to a safe and secure supply of U.K.-produced fuel to power the U.K. nuclear fleet of today and tomorrow—squeezing out Russian influence while creating more U.K. jobs and export opportunities.”

Industry’s take: “Having the sovereign capability to manufacture next-generation nuclear fuels for advanced reactors of the future is vital for energy security and net zero,” said Tom Greatrex, chief executive officer of the Nuclear Industry Association. “It will also open up export opportunities for the U.K., helping us reclaim our place as world leaders in the fuels sector.”

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