UK aims to develop domestic nuclear fuel production to reduce reliance on Russian imports

Britain is set to build Western Europe’s first next-generation nuclear fuel facility, the government has announced

The UK announced on Wednesday that it will invest £196 million ($246 million) to establish Western Europe’s first facility to produce high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) as it seeks to break Russia’s monopoly over the market.
The funding will be provided to Urenco, a British-Dutch-German consortium for production of HALEU, which is the fuel required by most advanced small modular reactors (SMRs).
Advanced modular reactors, which are smaller and can be made in factories, could transform how power stations are constructed by making building faster and less expensive.
Companies around the world developing SMRs are relying on HALEU to power them, but currently this type of enriched uranium is only commercially produced by Russia’s Tenex, a subsidiary of state nuclear major Rosatom.
“The potential is wider than just the British domestic market,” Andrew Bowie, the minister for nuclear told reporters. “We have allies who are more exposed to Russia and they will be looking to maximize Urenco’s UK facility.”
The first production plant is scheduled to be operational by 2031 in the northwest of England, according to the UK’s Department for Energy Security and Net Zero.

Britain aims to boost its nuclear power capacity to 24 gigawatts by 2050, equivalent to about a quarter of projected electricity demand.
Nuclear power production in the UK slumped to its lowest level in more than 40 years last year, after six reactors have been shut down since 2021, according to recent data from the British government and the UK unit of Electricite de France SA.
The UK currently has nine operational nuclear reactors at five sites but a number of those are approaching the end of their operating lives.
The push for HALEU production comes as the West seeks to reduce its energy imports from Russia in light of the Ukraine conflict.
Last year, American firm Centrus Energy announced it had produced a first small batch of the fuel as part of Washington’s strategy to cut reliance on imported nuclear fuel from Russia.
The US has limited imports of Russian uranium to 20% of domestic demand. However, last year it imported nearly $1.2 billion of Russian uranium, the largest amount since 2009.