Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) used in today’s commercial nuclear reactors is enriched to between 3 – 5% of Uranium-235.

On 8 May 2024, the UK government announced its plans to award £196 million to Urenco to build a new uranium enrichment facility in the UK to produce High-Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU) which is enriched to between 5 – 20% for the next generation of advanced reactors. The advantages of HALEU include allowing for smaller fuel assemblies and ultimately reactors, reduced refuelling frequency and the reduction in waste volumes.

The new facility will be the first high-tech nuclear fuel facility in Europe and forms part of the government’s plans to boost Europe’s energy security, decarbonise the economy, reduce energy bills and create new jobs.

Urenco is co-funding the £300 million uranium enrichment facility and expects that by 2031 it will have the capability to annually produce up to 10 tonnes of HALEU, which would generate the equivalent amount of energy to 1 million tonnes of coal.

Based in Capenhurst, Cheshire, the new nuclear fuel facility is anticipated to create approximately 400 highly-skilled jobs. 

Fusion Energy Developments

DESNZ has launched a consultation on proposals for siting fusion energy facilities, which will close on 3 July 2024. The proposals include:

  • Designating all fusion plants as nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs) to streamline the planning consent process.
  • Using an open-sited developer led approach, requiring developers to take responsibility in site selection and site characterisation.
  • Adopting a technology agnostic process for supporting fusion energy.
  • Adding thermal output to the output of energy producing facilities under the Planning Act 2008 in respect of the NSIP process.

The UK has played a leading role in fusion energy development as the first country in the world to provide a legislative framework for commercial fusion regulation and the building of the first commercially viable fusion prototype power plant through the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) programme.

Please contact a member of our nuclear team for further information on developments in the nuclear sector. 

This article was written by Ian Truman, Laura Callard and Jacob Hall.