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Government announces £120m fund to support ‘British nuclear renaissance’

The UK has six operating nuclear power plants currently, but only Hinkley Point C is expected to be running in 2030. Image: Getty.

The UK has six operating nuclear power plants currently, but only Hinkley Point C is expected to be running in 2030. Image: Getty.

The government has unveiled £120 million in funding to support development of new nuclear energy projects.

It follows plans to accelerate the rollout of nuclear power in the UK announced in the British Energy Security Strategy in April, when the government set a new target of up to 24GW by 2050.

The Future Nuclear Enabling Fund will provide targeted, competitively-allocated government grants designed to help new nuclear projects attract the private investment they require to reach commercialisation.

"Our new £120 million fund will push forward our plan to deploy a new fleet of nuclear power stations as part of a British nuclear renaissance,” said business and energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng as he launched the fund from Wylfa nuclear power station in Anglesey.

“By encouraging new companies to come forward and build in Britain, we can spur greater competition in the market to cut development costs so consumers benefit in the long-term.”

Interested parties can now register ahead of the bidding window opening this summer. The government is also inviting nuclear stakeholders who are not intending to bid to provide information about their experience that could help mature the design of the fund.

Simon Bowen has been appointed as the industry advisor to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) tasked with helping drive forward proposals for a new Great British Nuclear vehicle – a new body announced as part of the security strategy.

“Simon Bowen is an excellent appointment to lead Great British Nuclear, since he brings a wealth of experience in practical delivery to the job. We look forward to working with him and with the government to accelerate nuclear deployment and re-establish Britain’s global leadership in nuclear energy,” said Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association.

Through this body, the government is planning to initiate a selection process in 2023 for further UK nuclear projects, allowing negotiations with the most credible sites and ultimately government support as soon as possible. This will include but not be limited to Wylfa.

“This government is backing nuclear power as a critical part of our British Energy Security Strategy,” energy minister Greg Hands said.

“This Fund will accelerate the development of new nuclear – from SMRs to larger-projects – and bring fresh innovation into the market.”

The funding builds on a £2.5 million competition to support the development of a UK Advanced Modular Reactor (AMR) announced by the government the day after the British Energy Security Strategy was released as part of a wider £375 million support package.

In addition to this, the Office for Nuclear Regulations and Environment Agency is also set to receive an additional £830,000 to help the development of AMRs come to fruition in the UK.

There is only one new nuclear plant in the UK currently under construction, EDF’s Hinkley Point C. At the site in Somerset, the French energy giant is constructing two reactors that will have a capacity of 3,260MWe when complete. It has been hit by numerous delays and cost increases however, with COVID-19 further straining the project.

EDF is also looking to develop the 3.2GW Sizewell C nuclear plant in Suffolk, and received £100 million of funding from the government to support the site in January 2022.

All but one of the nation's six nuclear power stations in operation are expected to close by 2030, as the aging fleet starts to retire.

EDF’s Hunterston B nuclear power station closed at the beginning of this year after almost 46 years, while in 2021 EDF announced it was closing its Dungeness B nuclear power station seven years early. Dungeness B had already been in an extended outage since September 2018 due to technical challenges.

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