Grant Shapps today advanced £156 million of taxpayers’ money to boost development of nuclear energy, focusing on mini-reactors of a type adapted by Rolls Royce from submarine engines.

The energy secretary launched the Conservatives’ Great British Nuclear flagship this morning at the Science Museum, London, after a delay caused by last week’s announcement on public sector pay.

Ministers want nuclear to boost its share of generation towards a quarter of UK electricity consumption by mid-century, against the 16% it contributes at present.

Great British Nuclear is their mechanism, an arms-length agency overseeing a competition among British, American and French developers of smaller modular reactors (SMRs), rated at 500 MWh and below.  Its prize will be rights to install plants across Britain, avoiding the budget-busting overruns and decade-long delays of conventional big reactors.

CEO Gwen Parry-Jones, pictured, will lead GBN, under interim chair Simon Bowen.  Since 2019 she has headed Magnox, the operator where she began her career in 1989.

GBN will complete its initial screenings of competing SMR designs by the autumn. Detailed discussions will then begin, culminating in an ‘invitation to negotiate’ stage.

Shapps would say this morning that he was “proud to be turbocharging” the revival of UK nuclear power through the launch of Great British Nuclear.

“By rapidly boosting our homegrown supply of nuclear and other clean, reliable, and abundant energy, we will drive down bills for British homes and make sure the UK is never held to energy ransom by tyrants like Putin,” said the minister.

Hinkley Point C, £10 billion over-budget at £25 billion, will generate first only in 2025, nine years later than intended.

The £20 billion Sizewell C project in Suffolk, received government approval in December.

If completed by the early 2030s, its two reactors will provide 3.2 GWh a year, or around 7% of UK electricity. EDF have already received the government’s promise of £700 million in state underwritings sweeteners. Talks continue between the developer and Whitehall on the project’s final financing.

Included in Shapp’s GBN beneficience is £77.1m awarded to companies to speed up development in the UK of their advanced nuclear activities. The D-ESNZ said the cash would “maximise the chance of small and advanced modular reactors being built during the next Parliament”.

Ministers also confirmed projects successful in securing shares of £58m offered for further development and design of a type of advanced modular reactor (AMR) design. Included are so-called “next generation fuels” with potential to  give “super heat” for hydrogen production and other industrial uses.  The ministry’s Nuclear Fuel Fund has provided £22.3 million

A spokesman for trade lobbyists the Nuclear Industry Association enthused: “Britain has an important leadership role in the global nuclear industry, and nowhere more so than in our determination to drive Russia out of the nuclear fuel markets”.

“The government’s Nuclear Fuel Fund will bolster those world-class capabilities that make us uniquely placed to help our allies replace Russian supplies with Western nuclear fuel.”


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