Nuclear News – Early January 2024
Estimated reading time 3 minutes
The UK will become the first country in Europe to launch a high-tech HALEU (high-assay low enriched uranium) nuclear fuel programme, strengthening supply for new nuclear projects and driving Putin further out of global energy markets.
The landmark £300 million investment is part of plans to help deliver up to 24GW of clean, reliable nuclear power by 2050 - a quarter of the UK’s electricity needs.
The government funding will support domestic production of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) - the specialist fuel required to power the next generation of nuclear reactors.
Most advanced reactors require this fuel that is currently only commercially produced in Russia.
EDF Energy has outlined plans to extend the lives of its operational nuclear power stations in the UK. The French state-owned firm said it would make a decision on whether to extend the lives of four UK plants by the end of the year. It is also looking at the possibility of running its Sizewell B plant for 20 years longer than scheduled.
The plans are subject to approvals by safety watchdogs and would equal about £1.3bn in investment if approved.
The firm revealed its investment plans for its UK nuclear fleet on Tuesday and said in a statement that it hopes to boost energy security and cut carbon emissions.
In 2022, nuclear power provided 13.9% of total electricity supplied in the UK, although that figure has been in decline since the 1990s, according to official data. Like fossil fuels, nuclear fuels are non-renewable energy resources.
But nuclear power stations do not produce greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide or methane during their operation, although the construction of new plants is costly and does generate a low level of emissions through the manufacturing of materials needed like steel.
The government has said in the past that it wants nuclear power to provide up to 25% of the UK's electricity needs by 2050.
The government hopes to boost the nuclear power industry with the biggest expansion of the sector in 70 years.
A new large scale nuclear plant would quadruple supplies by 2050, which the government claims would lower bills and improve energy security. It also said its £300m ($382.6m) nuclear fuel programme would reduce reliance on overseas supply.
But the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA) said all clean energy needed fast-tracking.