LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said it plans to spend 300 million pounds ($380 million) on a new programme to produce advanced nuclear fuel suitable for the next generation of power-generating reactors, seeking to dislodge Russia as the main international supplier.
Britain was one of over 20 countries – including the United States, France and South Korea – that recently signed a pledge to triple global nuclear capacity by 2050 as part of international efforts to cut climate-damaging carbon emissions.
On Sunday, Britain said its new investment would help support domestic production of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) – a type of fuel currently only produced on a commercial scale by Russia.
Like other European nations, it has sought to cut its energy reliance on Russia since President Vladimir Putin’s forces invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
“The launch of the HALEU programme will enable the UK to supply the world with specialist nuclear fuel and further isolate Putin’s Russia,” said the energy security department in a statement.
The first production plant is scheduled to be operational by the early 2030s in the North West of England, the statement said.
Further details on production targets and how the money would be spent are due to be set out in an as-yet unscheduled strategy paper.
The European Union and a U.S. firm are also working on production.
While strongly opposed by campaign groups over its environmental risks, Britain sees a central role for a nuclear power revival in its long term energy strategy, launching a competition last year to develop small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs).
Such reactors are intended to be easier and cheaper to produce, avoiding the high costs and construction delays that have led to a decades-long stagnation in the expansion of global nuclear power capacity.
The supply of suitable fuel is seen as one potential bottleneck in meeting the international 2050 pledge, alongside the provision of finance and potential regulatory delays around the introduction of new SMR technology.
($1 = 0.7864 pounds)
(Reporting by William James; editing by Clelia Oziel)