Nuclear energy in the UK

From large new build projects to extensive decommissioning schemes, there’s a wide range of opportunities for businesses to become part of the UK’s nuclear supply chain.

An overview of the UK's civil nuclear industry

We’re committed to delivering new and replacement energy supplies that can provide secure, reliable, low-carbon electricity. Nuclear energy sits at the heart of these plans.

Nuclear energy has operated reliably and safely in the UK for over 60 years. We have extensive experience of the full nuclear life cycle, from front-end design through to decommissioning. Today, our 8 existing nuclear power plants generate around 20% of the UK’s electricity demand.

Supply chain opportunities for the UK's civil nuclear industry

With the positive transformation taking place in our nuclear industry, the prospects for businesses to establish themselves in the UK supply chain are vast.

We have major infrastructure projects that include:

  • new build opportunities
  • decommissioning
  • waste management programmes

The industry has set out proposals to develop 18 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear generating capacity at 6 sites in the UK. These projects could lead to a significant reduction in CO2 emissions and the creation of around 35,000 jobs at the peak of construction.

We have new build sites in:

  • Hinkley Point C, Somerset
  • Sizewell, Suffolk
  • Moorside, Cumbria
  • Wylfa, Anglesey
  • Oldbury, Gloucestershire
  • Bradwell, Essex

Decommissioning is another source of opportunity. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) is responsible for the decommissioning and cleaning up of our civil public sector nuclear legacy. The agency currently manage 17 sites through this process. The goal is to achieve the end state for all sites by 2125.

The UK government will spend 3.2 billion GBP on decommissioning in 2016/17. The government have also invested £90 million every year on research and development to ensure that the complex technical challenges can be conquered effectively.

Government plans for Small Modular Reactor development

The government have backed plans to develop the next generation of Small Modular Reactors (SMR), a technology which could play an important role in the world’s clean energy future.

Government have made a further commitment to invest at least £250 million in nuclear research and development. This includes a competition to find the best value SMR designs.

According to the National Nuclear Laboratory, the global SMR market it's estimated that the global SMR market will be approximately 65-85 GW by 2035 and valued at 250 to 400 billion GBP. If the economics of this approach prove competitive, there could be significant advantages for businesses involved in the UK’s development programme.

World-leading nuclear expertise across the UK

More than 65,000 people currently work in the UK’s civil nuclear industry. These are skilled workers with experience in fuel manufacturing, the operation and maintenance of reactors, and management of the waste generated from the operations.

Nuclear expertise is well distributed across the nation, but there are specific cluster areas where many major businesses share research, development and thinking. These include:

  • north west England, where Sellafield remains the major centre for the maintenance of nuclear skills
  • south west England, where EDF Energy has established a base and Horizon Nuclear Power has begun deployment
  • Yorkshire and the Humber, where growth is occurring around Sheffield, which is home to the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre

The UK government and industry partners skills development initiatives

There are government and privately backed initiatives in place to help develop further skills and knowledge in the UK’s nuclear sector. The National College for Nuclear works closely with the industry on a world-class curriculum that delivers high-level technical training and development.

Degree apprenticeships, focused on nuclear engineering, provide the next generation with higher education and work based skills and experience.

Financial support

The government also has up to 50 billion GBP available to support finance and insurance for supplies from within the UK to buyers outside the UK. This support takes the form of guarantees, insurance and loans issued by its export credit agency, UK Export Finance.

Last updated 24 April 2017

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