The UK Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy announced that the government would invest £40 million ($50.5m) to develop the next generation of nuclear energy technology, creating R&D and manufacturing jobs across the UK.

The funding will develop technologies to supply low-carbon heat, hydrogen, and other clean energy for decades to come building new, low-carbon industry will support the UK’s clean economic recovery as we move towards net zero emissions by 2050.

Some £30 million of funding will speed up the development of three advanced modular reactor (AMR) projects in Oxfordshire, Cheshire and Lancashire and drive them closer towards supplying low-carbon energy to the nation. The remaining £10 million will be invested into unlocking smaller research, design, and manufacturing projects to create up to 200 jobs.

Minister for Business and Industry, Nadhim Zahawi, said: “Advanced modular reactors are the next step in nuclear energy and have the potential to be a crucial part of tackling carbon emissions and climate change.”

The funding will ensure the technology is more attractive to private sector investors, supercharging the development of the industry and creating supply chains feeding future modular reactor developments. The successful AMR projects, awarded £10 million funding each, are:

•    Tokamak Energy, Oxfordshire – working with industry partners and research establishments including Oxford University to develop the Spherical Tokamak – £9,999,999;
•    Westinghouse Electric Company, Lancashire – developing a lead-cooled fast reactor -£9,998,387
•    Urenco Ltd U-Battery, Cheshire – working on a small high temperature gas-cooled fission reactor – £9,999,195.

The government will also invest £10 million into “turbocharging the industry." Some £5 million will be invested in British companies and startups, developing new ways of manufacturing advanced nuclear parts for modular reactor projects both at home and abroad. Regional projects that have secured funding so far include:

•    U-Battery, Concept Development and Demonstrator for U-Battery AMR Off-Site Modular Construction in Capenhurst – £1.1 million
•    Jacobs, Evaluation Technologies for Advanced Manufacturing Qualification in Warrington -£181,431
•    Laser Additive Solutions, SonicSMR, in Doncaster – £826,633
•    Cavendish Nuclear, AWESIM in Sheffield – £1.3 million
•    Sheffield Forgemasters, Large scale thick section electron beam welding – £8 million
•    Rolls-Royce Submarines, SAS in Derby – £259,989
•    Rolls-Royce Submarines, FAST in Derby – £1.4 million
•    Nuclear Energy Components, PITCO2C, in the Hope Valley at Bradwell – £378,000
•    Createc Technologies, MW-CT in Whitehaven – £314,595
•    Cammell Laird, FAITH in the Wirral – £5.1 million
•    EDF Energy, in Gloucester, £1,373,095.

The remaining £5 million will be put to strengthening the UK’s nuclear regulatory regime -– ensuring it remains one of the most robust and safest in the world as the UK looks to develop and deploy advanced nuclear technologies.

BEIS said recent research has shown that the UK’s entire nuclear industry could contribute £9.6bn a year to the economy and support 130,000 jobs by 2050, as well as creating significant export potential for AMR technology.

AMRs also provide the possibility to diversify the UK’s low-carbon energy mix by producing heat for industry and zero-carbon hydrogen, and have already demonstrated the potential to stimulate private investment.

Commenting on the announcement, Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the UK's Nuclear Industry Association, said:

“Nuclear is an innovative and ever-evolving technology, with new and advanced technologies having a key role to play in helping meet net zero across the economy.

“This announcement is a welcome step forward on that path. This is about more than electricity: nuclear can power the creation of hydrogen, clean fuels and district and industrial heating, as demand for all these continues to grow, if net zero is to become a reality. Commitment to nuclear as a long term part of our energy mix will lead to new jobs and growth and enable deep decarbonisation–two things the UK needs the most right now.”

Photo: The U-Battery reactor is one of the designs to benefit from new UK goernment funding (Credit: Urenco/ U-Battery)