The UK government has announced the release of GBP120 million (USD146 million) in funds to encourage the development of new nuclear energy projects, stimulate industry competitiveness, and unleash investment across the UK. The Future Nuclear Enabling Fund (FNEF) will contribute to the government’s goal of approving eight additional reactors by 2030.
The fund is intended to “unlock and expedite novel nuclear technology while encouraging new market participants,” according to the government. “It would give targeted, competitively allocated government funds to assist nuclear construction projects, especially small modular reactors (SMRs), in attracting the private investment required to make them a reality.
As a result, the FNEF will speed the commercialization of various technologies and assist enterprises in demonstrating their preparedness for the UK market. “Given the magnitude of investment required to develop a new nuclear plant, the government intends to focus funding on a small number of projects to ensure that Future Nuclear Enabling Fund objectives are realized.”
The UK currently has one nuclear power station under construction, at Hinkley Point C in Somerset, in southwest England. Construction began in December 2018 for the plant, which is composed of two EPR reactors of 1630 MWe each. The start of electricity generation from unit 1 is expected in June 2026, with unit 2 following in 2027 with a projected lifespan of 60 years. Negotiations between the government and EDF are ongoing for a replica project of Hinkley Point C at Sizewell C in Suffolk in eastern England. There is also a project underway to extend the life of Sizewell B by 20 years, to 2055.
Rolls-Royce SMR CEO Tom Samson, who joined Kwarteng and Energy Minister Greg Hands on a visit to Wylfa, said: “The launch of the fund is excellent news, and we welcome any move by the government that reduces development risk and introduces certainty—which can be a barrier to building new nuclear plants at pace.”
A Rolls-Royce-led UK SMR consortium aims to build 16 SMRs. The consortium, which includes Assystem, Atkins, BAM Nuttall, Jacobs, Laing O’Rourke, the National Nuclear Laboratory, the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, and TWI, aims to reach 10 by 2035. The Rolls-Royce SMR design was accepted for the Generic Design Assessment review in March. Other companies are also planning to build SMRs, including Westinghouse in the US.