UK First in Europe to Invest in Next Generation of Nuclear Fuel

Posted on 15 May 2024

The United Kingdom is poised to pioneer advanced nuclear fuel production in Europe, aiming to diminish Russia's dominance in this market and bolster both domestic and international energy initiatives. This strategic move aligns with the government's agenda to reduce reliance on Russian energy sources and alleviate energy costs.

A substantial investment of £196 million has been earmarked for Urenco to establish a uranium enrichment facility, projected to commence fuel production by 2031. This endeavour aims to diversify the global nuclear fuel supply, thereby reducing dependency on Russian exports of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU).

The initiative is anticipated to create approximately 400 highly skilled jobs, invigorating the local economy and solidifying the North-West of England's stature as a nucleus for nuclear fuel manufacturing. This initiative is integral to the government's broader commitment to fortify the UK's nuclear industry, with investments exceeding £763 million directed towards skill development, job creation, and education.

Since Russia's unlawful invasion of Ukraine, the UK has been at the forefront of efforts to curtail Russian oil and gas imports. Collaborating with nuclear allies, the UK is endeavouring to establish a secure global uranium supply chain, emancipated from Russian influence.

The UK is spearheading advancements in fusion energy technology, exemplified by plans to allocate up to £600 million for the construction of a commercially viable fusion prototype power plant in Nottinghamshire. Fusion energy holds promise as a sustainable, virtually limitless source of clean electricity, thereby enhancing the UK's energy autonomy in the long term.

Claire Coutinho, Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, emphasised the significance of this initiative in bolstering energy security and job creation. She highlighted the UK's resilience in standing up to Russian coercion and underscored the pivotal role of Urenco's uranium enrichment plant in positioning the UK as a trailblazer in advanced nuclear fuel production.

The deployment of advanced modular reactors is pivotal to the UK's ambition of quadrupling nuclear capacity by 2050, marking a significant milestone in the nation's energy evolution. These reactors, akin to small modular reactors, promise enhanced efficiency and employ innovative fuels, coolants, and technologies to generate low-carbon electricity. Moreover, their versatility extends to facilitating industrial decarbonization and producing hydrogen for transportation or residential heating.

In parallel, the UK has demonstrated global leadership in commercial fusion regulation, fostering an environment conducive to investment. Streamlined planning measures further reinforce the UK's appeal as a prime destination for companies venturing into fusion energy, positioning the nation at the vanguard of this transformative technology.

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