Urenco wins £196m government grant to build new advanced nuclear fuel facility

Cheshire-based uranium processing specialist, Urenco, has been given a £196m grant by the Government to build a new advanced nuclear fuel facility, due to come on-stream in 2031.

It means the UK will be the first European nation to produce advanced nuclear fuel – a market currently dominated by Russia – to help fuel nuclear power plants at home and abroad. This is part of the Government plan to push Russia out of the global energy market and drive down energy bills.

Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said: “Building our own uranium enrichment plant is essential if we want to prise Putin’s blood-soaked hands off Europe’s energy market.”

The UK will build Europe’s first facility to power future nuclear reactors, helping to isolate Russia from global energy markets, boost British energy security and provide reliable, affordable energy.

The Government’s investment will enable Urenco to build a uranium enrichment facility. This will produce fuel by 2031 that would be ready to export or use domestically, and could power UK homes in the next decade.

It will put an end to Russia’s reign as the only commercial producer of high-assay low enriched uranium (HALEU) and ensure other countries are not reliant on Russian exports.

The new facility will support around 400 highly-skilled jobs, helping to boost the local supply chain and grow the economy.

Located at Capenhurst in Cheshire, this will cement the status of the North West as a world leader in nuclear fuel production.

Rishi Sunak, said: “Russia has been the sole provider of this powerful nuclear fuel for too long and this marks the latest step in pushing him out of the energy market entirely.

“The wider future of British nuclear remains a critical national endeavour – guaranteeing nuclear and energy security, and reducing energy bills for Brits.”

HALEU is needed to power most advanced modular reactors which are crucial to meeting the UK’s ambition to quadruple nuclear capacity by 2050 – the biggest expansion in 70 years. Like small modular reactors, they can be made in factories and transform how power stations are built by making construction faster and less expensive.

These advanced reactors are more efficient and use novel fuels, coolants, and technologies to generate low-carbon electricity. Their high heat output means they can also be used to decarbonise industry, produce hydrogen for transport or heat for homes.

Urenco’s facility will have the capacity to produce up to 10 tonnes of HALEU per year by 2031. When fabricated into fuel, 10 tonnes of HALEU could contain as much energy as more than one million tons of coal.

Boris Schucht, Urenco CEO, said: “The responsibility the nuclear industry has to help governments and customers to achieve climate change and energy security goals is clear.

“We welcome this government investment, which will help accelerate the development of a civil HALEU commercial market and in turn the development of the next generation of nuclear power plants. These plants will have even higher safety standards and lend themselves to quicker licensing and construction processes.”

He added: “Urenco has the knowledge and experience to play a leading role in the production of HALEU and other advanced fuels, operating securely under inter-governmental treaties to ensure the peaceful use and safeguarding of nuclear technology.”

Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said: “This investment will enable the UK to fuel advanced reactors around the world, building on our existing capabilities to strengthen energy security for our allies while reducing their reliance on Russia.

“Urenco, at Capenhurst, is at the very forefront of the UK’s capability, with this new facility bringing opportunities for the supply chain, new jobs and investment in the North West of England.”