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by Sofia Villegas
09 May 2024
UK Government invests millions to 'end' Russian domination of energy market

UK will be first European nation to produce advanced nuclear fuel | Alamy

UK Government invests millions to 'end' Russian domination of energy market

The UK has invested almost £200m in nuclear fuel to “put an end” to Russia's domination of the market. 

Energy company Urenco has secured the £196m cash injection to build Europe’s first high-tech nuclear fuel facility in north-west England. 

Urenco, which is partly owned by the UK Government, will co-fund the uranium enrichment facility, which carries out a process essential for nuclear power.

It is hoped the site will boost British energy security and provide reliable and affordable energy, accelerating the journey to net-zero.

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.

“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.”

Currently, Russia is the only commercial producer of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU). 

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

HALEAU is needed to power the most advanced nuclear reactors, which are “crucial” to ensure the UK quadruples its nuclear capacity by 2050.

Urenco’s facility will produce up to ten tonnes of HALEU annually by 2031 for domestic and international use, equivalent to as much energy as more than one million tonnes of coal.

The funding is part of the £300m HALEU programme announced in January. 

The programme builds on commitments made at COP28 which saw the G7 nuclear nations – Canada, Japan, France, the UK and the US – commit to increasing uranium production, as they are responsible for half of the world’s nuclear fuel conversion and enrichment capability.

Located in Chesire, the new facility will also support around 400 highly-skilled jobs, building Sunak’s plan to secure the future of the UK nuclear industry – investing at least £763m in skills, jobs, and education.

Boris Schucht, chief executive of Urenco, 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.”

The government has also announced a competition of up to £600m in contracts to build the world’s first commercially viable fusion power plant prototype. 

Fusion power creates nearly four million times more energy for every kilogram of fuel than burning coal, oil or gas, hence it is believed this power will generate a “near-limitless” source of clean electricity, securing the UK’s long-term energy independence.

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