Great British nuclear revival to move towards energy independence

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The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; Grant Shapps visits Sizewell nuclear power station. Picture by Tim Hammond / MOD

Great British Nuclear to boost UK energy security, reduce dependence on volatile fossil fuel imports and deliver government priority to grow the economy.

A massive revival of nuclear power gets underway today, placing the UK at the forefront of a global race to develop cutting-edge technologies to rapidly deliver cleaner, cheaper, more secure energy.

Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps will today announce how Great British Nuclear (GBN) will drive the rapid expansion of new nuclear power plants in the UK at an unprecedented scale and pace. This will boost UK energy security, reduce dependence on volatile fossil fuel imports, create more affordable power and grow the economy, with the nuclear industry estimated to generate around £6 billion for the UK economy.

From today, companies can 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 – demonstrating the government delivering on its priorities to partner with the nuclear industry and jointly spearhead the future of nuclear technologies.

Unlike conventional reactors that are built on site, SMRs are smaller, can be made in factories and could transform how power stations are built by making construction faster, and less expensive.

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 and achieve among the cheapest wholesale electricity prices in Europe, whilst supporting jobs across the country.

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 visits Sizewell nuclear power station. Picture by Tim Hammond / MOD

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.”

Simon Bowen, interim chair of GBN said:

“GBN is core to delivering the government’s new nuclear programme.

“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 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 programme forward.”

On top of today’s GBN competition launch, the government is also announcing today 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 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
  • 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 AMRtype that use a molten salt as a coolant and fuel, leading to intrinsic safety compared with conventional fuels.

A knowledge sharing initiative, led by expert nuclear industry advisers Arup Ove, aimed at facilitating the sharing of valuable expertise to reduce the time, risk, and cost of AMR R&D programme delivery.

Julia Pyke, Joint Managing Director for Sizewell C said:

“It’s great to see the growing ambition for nuclear which underlines the key role it will play in a future ‘net zero’ energy system. Today’s announcement is also another big vote of confidence in Sizewell C, which will continue the transformation in British nuclear construction started by Hinkley Point C.

“If Hinkley had been on last year, UK consumers would have saved over £4 billion. Both projects will form a vital part of the future nuclear fleet, helping to lower carbon emissions and reduce energy costs for British households.”

Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said:

“The launch of GBN marks a new era for nuclear deployment in the UK – helping drive a programme of construction at pace and at scale to strengthen our energy security, create good jobs across the country, and advance our net zero future by providing up to 25% of our future power needs.

“Focus on the SMR selection will demonstrate the commitment to deployment of innovative technologies and open up new opportunities for the UK industrial supply chain here and abroad. There a range of sites and communities across the country ready to host SMR technology, alongside the large scale nuclear capacity we will also need.

“Britain has an important leadership role in the global nuclear industry, and nowhere more so than in our determination to drive Russia out of the nuclear fuel markets. The government’s Nuclear Fuel Fund will bolster those world-class capabilities that make us uniquely placed to help our allies replace Russian supplies with Western nuclear fuel.”

David Peattie, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority CEO, said:

“Decommissioning plays a critical role in the lifecycle of nuclear power generation, and we are committed to sharing our expertise, resource, and assets to support GBN and the government in delivering for the British public.

“I’m delighted that in support of this aim our nuclear transport arm, Nuclear Transport Solutions, has been awarded over £1 million of government funding to develop the fuel transport package for new nuclear reactors.

“We will continue to explore opportunities to align our mission with GBN’s ambitions, including the potential to free up our excess land for other uses.”

Last year, the government made the historic 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.

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 today, 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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