May 21, 2024
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Britain Invests £200 Million in Europe’s Next-Gen Nuclear Fuel Facility

Britain has announced a nearly £200 million investment to build Europe’s first facility for producing High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU).

This special fuel is considered crucial for powering the next generation of nuclear reactors.

The move, announced on Wednesday, is part of efforts to meet climate targets and boost energy security.

Britain is seeking to increase its nuclear power capacity by 2050 to 24 gigawatts, equivalent to about a quarter of projected electricity demand, from about 14% today. It hopes to build new advanced reactors which could need the HALEU fuel.

“As we see more advanced modular reactors coming onstream, HALEU will be the fuel that will be required so having more of that technology in the UK will mean we are able to supply them from a domestic source,” Andrew Bowie, Britain’s minister for nuclear and renewables said in an interview.

Uranium enrichment firm Urenco will receive 196 million pounds to build the facility in Cheshire, Northwest England. The facility will be ready to produce the fuel by 2031 to be used domestically or exported, and will support around 400 jobs, according to the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero.

“There are obviously opportunities to export this fuel to our allies who themselves want to wean themselves away from an over reliance on Russia for their nuclear fuel,” Bowie said.

Currently, the main company selling HALEU, which is relied upon by companies developing advanced nuclear reactors across the world, is TENEX, part of Russia’s state-owned energy company Rosatom.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the West has been seeking to reduce its energy imports from Russia.

U.S. firm Centrus Energy has also begun producing small amounts of the fuel and expects to scale up production while France’s Orano is considering building a facility in the U.S.

HALEU is enriched to levels of up to 20%, rather than around 5% for the uranium that powers most existing nuclear plants.

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