The proposed facility, which is slated to produce up to 10 tonnes of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) per annum by 2031, will power the UK’s future civil nuclear power stations, create 400 highly skilled jobs and boost the local economy


UK to build advanced nuclear fuel facility. (Credit: Nicolas HIPPERT on Unsplash)

The UK government has announced its plans to build Europe’s first advanced nuclear fuel production facility in Cheshire, to support fuel nuclear power plants inland and abroad.

Urenco, a supplier of enrichment services and fuel cycle products in the nuclear industry, will receive £196m in government funding to build the proposed uranium enrichment facility.

The UK aims to displace Russia, which is currently dominating the nuclear fuel production market, through the uranium enrichment facility, out of the global energy markets.

The new facility is anticipated to end Russia’s advantage as the only producer of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) and reduce other countries’ reliance on Russian exports.

It is expected to start producing up to 10 tonnes of HALEU per annum by 2031, which could be exported or used domestically to power UK homes in the next decade.

HALEU is an enriched uranium fuel, 10 tonnes of which, when fabricated into fuel, could contain as much energy as more than one million tons of coal.

UK 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.

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

The new nuclear fuel enrichment facility is expected to create nearly 400 highly skilled jobs and boost the local supply chain and the economy.

The funding is part of the £300m HALEU programme announced in January this year, and Urenco, which is partly owned by the UK government, will co-fund the facility.

It builds on the PM’s ‘national endeavour’ initiative to secure the future of the UK’s nuclear industry, by investing at least £763m in skills, jobs, and education.

Furthermore, the UK government will invite engineering and construction companies to bid for the £600m first fusion prototype power plant at a retired coal plant in Nottinghamshire.

Urenco CEO Boris Schucht 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.

“Urenco has the knowledge and experience to play a leading role in the production of HALEU and other advanced fuels, operating securely under inter-governmental treaties to ensure the peaceful use and safeguarding of nuclear technology.”