£50m fund will boost UK nuclear fuel projects, ministers say | Energy industry
A £50million nuclear fuel fund to boost UK production and support the development of alternatives to Russian supply opens on Monday, the trade department said.
The fund is part of a nuclear fuel investment package of up to £75m, of which up to £13m has already been awarded to nuclear fuel makers Westinghouse in Preston, helping the company to develop a conversion capacity for reprocessed uranium and freshly mined uranium.
Uranium conversion is an important step in the nuclear fuel cycle. The funding is designed to create recycled uranium conversion capacity in the UK that is not currently available outside of Russia. As well as boosting the UK’s energy security, ministers hope it will also open up new export opportunities.
G7 leaders agreed in June to take collective action to reduce reliance on civilian nuclear and related goods from Russia, including by diversifying its uranium supplies and nuclear fuel production capacity. Russia has around 20% of the world’s uranium conversion capacity and 40% of the enrichment capacity.
Graham Stuart, the Minister for Energy and Climate, said: “Record global gas prices, caused by Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, have highlighted the need for more local renewable energy. , but also from nuclear energy produced in the UK – by building more power stations and developing domestic fuel capacity.
“This investment program will enhance the UK’s energy security, ensuring access to a safe and secure supply of UK-produced fuel to power the UK’s nuclear fleet now and in the future – eliminating Russian influence, while creating more jobs and export opportunities in the UK.”
Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “Having the sovereign capability to manufacture next-generation nuclear fuels for the advanced reactors of the future is vital to energy security and net zero.”
The £50m fund will support projects such as fuel supply options for light water reactors, including future small modular reactors. It will also seek to support projects producing new types of fuels that will be needed to power advanced modular reactors, likely to be operational from the 2030s, such as high-dose low-enriched uranium.
The news comes after the government confirmed in late November that the Sizewell C nuclear power station in Suffolk will go ahead, backing the project with an investment of almost £700m which will end the controversial involvement of China.