UK Energy security secretary Grant Shapps has announced that companies can now register their interest with Great British Nuclear (GBN) to participate in a competition to secure funding support to develop their products.
The announcement, according to the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, could result in billions of pounds of public and private sector investment in small modular reactor (SMR) projects in the UK.
It’s a step forward in the country’s mission to boost energy security and decrease dependence on fossil fuels and is being hailed by the UK government as a “massive revival of nuclear power.”
Besides the SMR technology, the UK government said in a statement that it “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.”
Minister for Nuclear Andrew Bowie said: “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.”
Announced at the same time as GBN’s competition launch, the government also committed to a grant funding package of up to £157 million ($203 million).
Up to £77.1 million ($99 million) will be available for companies to accelerate advanced nuclear business development in the UK and up to £58 million ($75 million) for the further development and design of a type of advanced modular reactor (AMR) and next-generation fuel.
The winning projects of this latest phase of funding are:
- £22.5 million ($29 million) to Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation UK in Warrington to further develop the design of a high temperature micro modular reactor
- £15 million ($19 million) to National Nuclear Laboratory in Warrington to accelerate the design of a high temperature reactor
- £16 million ($21 million) to National Nuclear Laboratory in Preston to continue to develop sovereign coated particle fuel capability
- £22.3 million ($29 million) from the Nuclear Fuel Fund will enable projects to develop new fuel production and manufacturing capabilities
In 2022, the UK confirmed the first state backing of a major nuclear project in over 30 years, investing £700 million ($903 million) in Sizewell C. The government is now working towards its ambitious target of providing up to a quarter of the UK’s electricity from domestically-produced nuclear energy by 2050.
Jasbir Sidhu, president of the Nuclear Institute commented on the statement: “I’m pleased to see the UK is back in action on Nuclear. It’s vital we realize new nuclear projects for electricity generation if we have any chance of reaching 24 GW nuclear capacity by 2050, as well as capitalizing on the big export opportunity of SMRs”.
In terms of next steps, GBN will 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 selection will take place in the Autumn.
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