The UK government has confirmed £40m of funding to drive the development of next generation nuclear technologies, underlining its confidence that the sector will continue to play a significant role in decarbonising the energy system.
The bulk of the funding, which was announced late last week, will support three Advanced Modular Reactor (AMR) projects. Far smaller than traditional nuclear plants, AMRs can be used in remote locations and can produce enough energy to power a medium-sized city. They are widely regarded as a central pillar of the government's long term vision for a nuclear industry that has consistently struggled to deliver new large scale projects on time and on budget at a time when renewables and energy storage costs have been plummeting.
Around £30m of the new funding will support the development of three AMR projects: Tokamak Energy in Oxfordshire, which is focused on developing fusion reactors; Westinghouse in Lancashire, which is working to design a lead-cooled fission reactor; and U-Battery in Cheshire, which is seeking to develop a small gas-cooled fission reactor.
Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi said AMRs "have the potential to be a crucial part of tackling carbon emissions and climate change", adding that the government's investment in nuclear technology "could also create thousands more green collar jobs for decades to come."
On top of the AMR projects, a further £10m of funding will support the nuclear industry more broadly, the government announced. Around £5m will be invested in British companies and start-ups developing new ways of manufacturing advanced nuclear parts for modular reactor. Projects awarded support under the scheme include £1.1m for a U-Battery scheme in Cheshire, £1.4m for Rolls Royce submarines in Derby, and £1.3m for Cavendish Nuclear in Sheffield.
The remaining £5m will be invested in strengthening the UK's nuclear regulatory regime, the government said.
The announcement forms part of the government's Nuclear Sector Deal, which was launched in 2018 as part of the government's wider industrial strategy. The funding - which follows the Chancellor's unveiling of a £3bn green jobs package last week - will be seen as further evidence of the government's on-going support for the sector, despite growing calls from green groups and some energy experts for Ministers to focus on delivering new renewables capacity at a time when new nuclear projects have failed to deliver anticipated cost savings.
However, many within the nuclear industry remain concerned about the absence of a route to market for new projects, following the shelving of a series of projects late last year.
The Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) last month published a major new report warning the UK's long term net zero targets could be at risk unless the government comes forward with clear plans to enable a new fleet of reactors to replace those nuclear plants that are set to be retired over the next 10 to 15 years.
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