The UK government has outlined plans for the biggest expansion of nuclear power for 70 years to reduce electricity bills, support thousands of jobs and improve UK energy security. This includes exploring building a major new power station and investing in advanced nuclear fuel production, according to the Department for Energy Security & Net Zero (DESNZ).

The Civil Nuclear Roadmap “will give industry certainty of the future direction of the UK’s ambitious nuclear programme, on top of the government’s historic commitment to Sizewell C and world-leading competition to develop small modular reactor (SMR) technology,” DESNZ said.

The roadmap sets out how the UK will increase nuclear generation by up to four times to 24 GWe by 2050 – enough to provide a quarter of the UK’s electricity needs. The plans include next steps for exploring a GW-scale power plant as big as Sizewell C planned for Suffolk or Hinkley Point C under construction in Somerset.

The government will also invest up to £300m ($382m) in UK production of the fuel required to power high-tech new nuclear reactors, known as HALEU, currently only commercially produced in Russia. DESNZ says: “As the first country in Europe to launch a HALEU programme, the UK will lead the way from its North West production hub to provide the world with this form of uranium fuel, with the first plant aiming to be operational early in the next decade. This builds on the ambition to return uranium conversion to the Springfields nuclear fuel site.”

An additional £10m will be provided to develop the skills and sites needed to produce other advanced nuclear fuels in the UK, helping to secure long term domestic nuclear fuel supply. The roadmap also includes a government ambition to secure 3-7 GW worth of investment decisions every five years from 2030 to 2044 on new nuclear projects.

“Nuclear is the perfect antidote to the energy challenges facing Britain,” said UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. “It’s green, cheaper in the long term and will ensure the UK’s energy security for the long-term. This is the right long-term decision and is the next step in our commitment to nuclear power, which puts us on course to achieve net zero by 2050 in a measured and sustainable way.

Secretary of State for Energy Security & Net Zero, Claire Coutinho said the £300m plan to produce advanced nuclear fuel in the UK will supply nuclear plants at home and overseas. “From large gigawatt projects to small modular reactors, the UK’s wider nuclear revival will quadruple our nuclear capacity by 2050 – helping to power Britain from Britain. Plans to streamline the development of new power stations and introduce smarter regulation could speed up the overall process and, as a result, the delivery of nuclear power in the UK. This includes allowing regulators to assess projects while designs are finalised, and better join-up with overseas regulators assessing the same technology.”

The government is also publishing two consultations, one on a new approach to siting future nuclear power stations and another on supporting the sector and encouraging private investment to roll out advanced nuclear projects. “The proposals will attract investment in the UK nuclear sector by empowering developers to find suitable sites rather than focusing on 8 designated by government. Community engagement will remain critical to any decisions, alongside maintaining robust criteria such as nearby population densities,” noted Coutinho.

She added that as well as powering homes, innovations in the nuclear sector could provide direct heat for industry, energy for green hydrogen production, and medical isotopes for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. “The Nuclear Skills Taskforce will shortly set out plans to meet the demand of an industry – already worth £6bn to the British economy – which is likely to include increasing the numbers of graduates and apprentices and attracting mid-careerists with relevant skills and expertise.”

Minister for Nuclear Andrew Bowie said the government’s investment in nuclear will ensure the UK remains at the forefront of technological developments. “Our plans will give investors the confidence to back new UK projects, with a simpler process for locating new schemes and clear support for private sector companies developing innovative new technologies.” The roadmap will also confirm plans for decommissioning to make sure they remain suitable for new nuclear technologies and protect future generations from bearing the costs, he noted.

Gwen Parry-Jones, CEO of Great British Nuclear (GBN) said that since GBN started the SMR technical selection process last July progress has continued and GBN expects to complete vendor selection later this year. “Shortly we will invite the six companies we have selected to submit tenders.”

The Head of Government Affairs at Urenco, Emilie Isaacs welcomed publication of the Civil Nuclear Roadmap which, alongside the siting and alternative routes to market consultations, will help streamline the regulatory and administrative processes for future projects. “Playing a key part in the nuclear fuel cycle, we are committed to meeting additional demand for enriched fuel to power the reactors of today and tomorrow.”

World Nuclear Association Director General Sama Bilbao y León said the roadmap “is a pragmatic example of the positive action now being taken to deliver on the commitments made by those countries that endorsed the net zero nuclear Ministerial Declaration to Triple Nuclear Energy at COP28”.