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UK launches Great British Nuclear to stimulate nuclear renaissance


New arms-length government body for nuclear

Focus on 3.2 GW Sizewell C plant with France

Funding, selection for new SMR technology

  • Author
  • Andreas Franke
  • Editor
  • Jonathan Loades-Carter
  • Commodity
  • Electric Power Energy Transition

The UK is to drive the expansion of new nuclear power plants in Britain launching a new government body, Great British Nuclear (GBN), the energy ministry said July 18.

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GBN will play a key role in reaching the 2050 target for nuclear to provide up to a quarter of the UK's electricity with the sector estimated to generate GBP6 billion ($7.9 billion) for the UK economy, it said.

"Today, as we open Great British Nuclear and the competition to develop cutting-edge small modular reactor [SMR] technology, we are seeing the first brush strokes of our nuclear power renaissance," Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps said.

In addition to supporting the emerging, more agile SMR 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, it said.

"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," Julia Pyke, joint managing director for Sizewell C said in the ministry's statement.

Last summer, the UK invested GBP700 million in the Sizewell C project, the first state backing of a major nuclear project in over 30 years, making it a co-shareholder in the project company alongside French utility EDF.

The 3.2 GW project was estimated to cost about GBP20 billion in 2020.

EDF is also the lead developer of the 3.2-GW Hinkley Point C set to start in 2027, but costs are projected to rise above GBP32 billion.

The interim chair of GBN Simon Bowen described the "arms-length body" as the "core to delivering the government's new nuclear program," the statement said.

Agile AMR technology

London also announced a GBP157 million funding package for companies to accelerate advanced nuclear business development in the UK.

The grants are to support advanced nuclear designs to enter UK regulation, maximizing the chance of small and advanced modular reactors being built during the next parliament (before 2030).

This includes GBP58 million for the further development and design of a type of advanced modular reactor (AMR) and next generation fuel, it said.

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.

Following the launch of the SMR selection process, GBN will select technologies that meet the criteria, and then enter into detailed discussions with those companies as part of an Invitation to Negotiate phase, it said.

The initial down-select will take place in the autumn, the ministry added.

Europe's first new EPR reactor, the 1.6-GW OL3 in Finland, started commercial operations this year with France's 1.6-GW Flamanville-3 to follow next year.

EDF previously said it expected to make a final investment decision for Sizewell C in 2023 "subject to the achievement of certain key stages, in particular the ability to raise the necessary financing."