UK to build Europe's first next-generation nuclear fuel plant | Atomic energy

UK to build Europe's first next-generation nuclear fuel plant |  Atomic energy

The UK is investing nearly £200 million (€232.5 million) to build Europe's first production facility for highly enriched uranium (HALEU), a fuel the government says will power next-generation projects. Atomic energy.

As part of efforts to meet climate targets and increase energy security, the UK is seeking to increase its nuclear capacity to 24 gigawatts by 2050, equivalent to a quarter of projected electricity demand, compared to around 14% currently. The UK wants to build new advanced reactors that require HALEU fuel.

“As more advanced modular reactors are developed, HALEU will be the fuel needed, so having more of this technology in the UK can run them from a domestic source,” British minister Andrew Bowie said in an interview. Nuclear and renewable energy.

The UK is offering uranium enrichment company Urenco £196m to build a new facility in Cheshire, north-west England, which will help create around 400 jobs. The unit should be ready to produce fuel for domestic use or export by 2031, the Department of Energy and Conservation said. Carbon neutral.

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

Many companies around the world building advanced nuclear reactors rely on HALEU to power them.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the West has sought to reduce energy imports from Russia.

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US company Centrus Energy has also started small-scale production of the fuel and hopes to ramp up production, while French company Orano is considering building a facility in the US.

HALEU is enriched up to 20%, as opposed to the roughly 5% of uranium that powers most existing nuclear power plants.

The United Kingdom announced this Wednesday a competition to award contracts worth 600 million pounds (697.5 million euros) to build the world's first commercially viable fusion power plant prototype, which it hopes will be able to connect to the electricity grid by 2040. .

For years, scientists, governments and companies around the world, including the United States and Japan, have been trying to develop nuclear fusion reactors that power the sun and produce electricity without emissions and without creating large amounts of long-lasting radioactive waste. .

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