Welcoming a new era with Great British Nuclear
Last month, the UK Government introduced Great British Nuclear (GBN), a strategic, long-term programme aimed at enhancing Britain’s nuclear power industry and nation’s energy security. We delve into this initiative and look at how their plans will support the future of nuclear.
An overview of Great British Nuclear
Great British Nuclear stems from a redesign of British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL) – and is an executive, non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. The name BNFL will of course be very familiar to those working in the nuclear industry, and NRL’s own interaction with the organisation dates back to 1997 when we signed a contract to deliver nuclear recruitment expertise.
The introduction of the newly refurbished GBN operating entity is set to bolster clean energy generation, aligning itself with the government’s promise to facilitate the construction of 24 GW of nuclear power capacity by 2050.
Industry bodies, such as The Nuclear Institute, have positively received the news of a newly focused operating body with the remit to drive forward the country’s nuclear power sector.
That’s because if the 2050 target is met, we’ll see nearly a quarter of the UK’s total power requirements fulfilled by nuclear energy, positioning it as a major provider of low-carbon energy.
Coinciding with the GBN announcement, the Government revealed a funding package worth £157 million, allocating up to £77.1 million to expedite advanced nuclear business ventures like Small Modular Reactor technology, and up to £58 million to develop Advanced Modular Reactors (AMR). AMRs, operating at higher temperatures than SMRs, could also support hydrogen in addition to nuclear power generation.
Furthermore, £22.3 million from the Nuclear Fuel Fund is reserved to facilitate 8 new fuel production plans, which include Westinghouse Springfields in Preston and Urenco in Capenhurst, Chester.
GBN and Small Modular Reactors
GBN’s introduction paves the way to help move Small Modular Reactors (SMR) one step closer to production – an area the Government stated would be Great British Nuclear’s initial priority.
They have committed to a process of SMR technology selection, designed to result in at least one viable Small Modular Reactor project. Aiming to identify those vendors best positioned to achieve a project Financial Investment Decision (FID) by the end of 2029.
In April 2023, Rolls-Royce SMR’s 470 MW design successfully completed the first stage of the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) undertaken by the Environment Agency, the Office for Nuclear Regulation, and the Natural Resources Wales – earning them progress to the next phase of evaluation.
GBN and nuclear new build
The creation of Great British Nuclear also supports progress for nuclear new build (NNB) schemes – as the Government recognises the importance of building more nuclear power stations to help support the energy transition – with Hinkley Point C being the first NNB project commissioned since 1995.
Plans aim to expedite preparations for Sizewell C, a 3.2 GW nuclear power station which will sit adjacent to Sizewell B on the Suffolk coast. With the capability of generating low-carbon power for a minimum of 60 years, it uses a replica design of the Hinkley Point C station which is expected to start producing power in 2027.
Initiatives to realise plans for Sizewell C have been underway for some years, with NRL taking pride in being an early member of the Sizewell C Consortium, advocating the crucial role the nuclear new build plant will take in the energy transition.
The Government’s new measures include a further £170 million investment – a move aimed to attract private investment into new nuclear build projects like Sizewell C. This funding will assist in preparing the site for construction, whilst securing key components from the project’s supply chain.
In March 2023, the Environment Agency granted the necessary permit required prior to the construction of the nuclear power station. At its peak, Sizewell C is anticipated to create 10,000 jobs within the project’s supply chain.
NRL and the nuclear industry
Now in our 40th year in business, we’re proud to have supported the UK’s nuclear industry for four decades – providing Non-Destructive Testing to the highest standards of quality and safety.
Our Radiography services support nuclear projects in Cumbria, whilst our Ultrasonic Inspection and Qualification services are helping to safely facilitate the next generation of nuclear new build and SMR technology.