Government opens remaining £50m of nuclear fuel fund for bids

A £50 million cash pot of government funding aimed at boosting domestic production of nuclear fuel has now opened for bids in the face of continued Russian aggression in Ukraine.

The money, which is the remainder of a £75 million pound Nuclear Fuel Fund announced in July 2022, aims to support projects establishing new domestic fuel capabilities, which could include fuel supply options for Light Water Reactors, including future Small Modular Reactors.

The fund also looks to support projects producing new fuel types such as High Assay Low Enriched Uranium.

This comes after G7 leaders agreed in June to begin concerted action to reduce reliance on civil nuclear and related goods from Russia, which currently owns around 20% of global uranium conversion capacity, according to the government.

Energy and climate minister Graham Stuart said: “Record high global gas prices, caused by Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, have highlighted the need for more home-grown renewable energy, but also UK generated nuclear power – building more plants, and developing domestic fuel capability.

“This investment package will strengthen the UK’s energy security, by ensuring access to a safe and secure supply of UK produced fuel to power the UK nuclear fleet of today and tomorrow - squeezing out Russian influence, while creating more UK jobs and export opportunities.”

Up to £13m of the fund has been ring fenced for Springfields nuclear fuel manufacturing site in Preston, which the government has said has “strategic importance” to fabricating fuel for the current UK advanced gas cooled reactor fleet.

The government hopes funding will create expert nuclear fuel capability to convert recycled uranium in the UK, an important stage in the nuclear fuel cycle that is not currently available outside Russia.  

Chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, Tom Greatrex, said: “Having the sovereign capability to manufacture next generation nuclear fuels for advanced reactors of the future is vital for energy security and net zero.

“It will also open up export opportunities for the UK, helping us reclaim our place as world leaders in the fuels sector.”

Last year, the government confirmed it would be going forward with its 50% stake in Sizewell C nuclear plant in Suffolk, by providing £700m in funding in what will be the first state backing of a nuclear project in over 30 years.

These measures are part of the government’s target to increase civil nuclear deployment to up to 24GW by 2050, as announced in its British Energy Security Strategy in April 2022.

The fund will close for applications on 20 February.