U.K. launches Great British Nuclear, SMR competition; new funding announced

July 19, 2023, 9:35AMNuclear News

Promising a “massive revival of nuclear power,” the U.K. government yesterday officially launched Great British Nuclear—an “arms-length” governmental body established to help ramp up the nation’s nuclear capacity to as much as 24 GW by 2050. Alongside, the U.K. announced a GBN-managed small modular reactor competition.

“From today, companies can register their interest with GBN to participate in a competition to secure funding support to develop their products,” the government said in a July 18 announcement. “This could result in billions of pounds of public and private sector investment in small modular reactor projects in the U.K.—demonstrating the government delivering on its priorities to partner with the nuclear industry and jointly spearhead the future of nuclear technologies.”

According to the announcement, once the initial stage of the SMR selection process is complete, GBN will down-select the technologies that have met its criteria, followed by detailed discussions with those chosen reactor developers as part of an invitation-to-negotiate phase. The initial down-select is scheduled to take place this fall.

At the same time, the government stressed that it remains committed to the Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C megaprojects and will work with GBN to consider the potential role of further large, gigawatt-scale nuclear power plants in the U.K. energy mix.

Shapps

Official words: “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,” stated U.K. energy security secretary Grant Shapps. “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 U.K. 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 . . . we are seeing the first brush strokes of our nuclear power renaissance to power up Britain and grow our economy for decades to come.”

Simon Bowen, GBN’s interim chair, added, “Building on the work done at Hinkley Point and Sizewell, today’s announcement of the start of the SMR selection process signifies a real step forward in delivering the scale of nuclear power that Britain needs for a secure, sustainable energy future. We look forward to working with all interested parties—technology vendors, the supply chain, the wider industry, and local communities—as we move this essential program forward.”

Great British funding: In addition to the GBN and SMR competition launches, the government announced a grant funding package for the nuclear sector totaling up to £157 million (about $204.7 million), including:

■ Up to £77.1 million (about $100.5 million) for companies to accelerate advanced nuclear business development in the United Kingdom and support advanced nuclear designs to enter U.K. regulation.

■ Up to £58 million (about $75.6 million) for the further development and design of high-temperature, gas-cooled reactors and next-generation fuel. HTGRs, according to the government, could provide high-temperature heat for hydrogen and other industrial uses alongside nuclear power. This latest phase of funding includes the following:

▪ Up to £22.5 million (about $29.3 million) to Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation UK in Warrington to further develop the design of a high-temperature micro modular reactor.

▪ Up to £15 million (about $19.6 million) to the National Nuclear Laboratory in Warrington to accelerate the design of an HTGR.

▪ Up to £16 million (about $20.9 million) to the National Nuclear Laboratory in Preston to continue development of a sovereign coated particle fuel capability, a type of robust advanced fuel suitable for HTGRs.

A further £22.3 million (about $29.1 million) from the Nuclear Fuel Fund will be allocated to eight projects to develop new fuel production and manufacturing capabilities in the United Kingdom, with an eye toward improving energy security and supporting the global move away from Russian fuel. This funding includes:

■ Over £10.5 million (about $13.7 million) to the Westinghouse Springfields nuclear fuel plant in Preston to manufacture more innovative types of nuclear fuel for customers both in the United Kingdom and overseas.

■ Over £9.5 million (about $12.4 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. According to the government, LEU+ will allow for current reactors and SMRs to run for longer between refueling outages, improving reactor efficiency and economics both in the United Kingdom and abroad, while HALEU development will ensure that Britain remains at the forefront of fuel development for future advanced reactors.

■ Over £1 million (about $1.3 million) to Nuclear Transport Solutions, a subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, to develop transport solutions to facilitate a supply chain for HALEU, both domestically and internationally.

■ Over £1.2 million (about $1.5 million) to support MoltexFLEX, a U.K. molten salt reactor developer based in northwestern England, to build and operate rigs for the development of molten salt fuel.

Promising a “massive revival of nuclear power,” the U.K. government yesterday officially launched Great British Nuclear—an “arms-length” governmental body established to help ramp up the nation’s nuclear capacity to as much as 24 GW by 2050. Alongside, the U.K. announced a GBN-managed small modular reactor competition.


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