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£120m fund launched to advance nuclear developments

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The government has launched the Future Nuclear Enabling Fund (FNEF), a £120 million fund aimed at speeding up nuclear energy proposals.

The FNEF’s main goal is to assist in the maturation of potential nuclear projects ahead of a government selection process.

Interested parties are encouraged to express their interest in advance of the formal bidding round, which will take place this summer.

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The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said the fund would “support a limited number of nuclear projects” in developing their design and business cases ahead of the government’s planned “selection process in 2023, with the intention of government entering negotiations with the most credible nuclear projects.”

“Any successful FNEF award will have no impact on whether projects can participate in the selection process in 2023 or whether they can receive any other government awards in the future,” according to a BEIS report.

“In addition, projects that choose not to bid for the FNEF or who bid and are unsuccessful will not be excluded from the anticipated selection process in 2023 or from consideration for other future government awards.”

Established nuclear market players and new entrants, including consortia, will be eligible to participate in the FNEF, which may include technology vendors, developers, and/or operators.

Bidders must be based in the United Kingdom or have a UK company branch if they are headquartered elsewhere. Nuclear fission must be included in bids, which can be in the form of GW-scale reactors, small modular reactors, or advanced modular reactors.

Bidders must show ambition and present a credible plan for commercial operation by the early 2030s, as well as demonstrating that their proposal is a reliable long-term on-grid power source.

The “government’s long-term ambition is to increase the deployment of civil nuclear power to up to 24GW by 2050 – about 25% of our projected 2050 electricity demand – as well as taking one project to a Final Investment Decision (FID) in this parliament and two projects to FID in the next parliament, including small modular reactors, subject to technology readiness, value for money, and relevant approvals,” according to the British Energy Security Strategy released in April.

The government has previously stated that the development of EDF’s planned £20 billion Sizewell C nuclear plant is the preferred project to bring to FID this parliament.

The government announced its intention to purchase a 20% stake in Sizewell C in March. That came just two months after business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced a £100 million investment in Sizewell C to help develop the project and boost investor confidence.

The prime minister recently met with nuclear industry executives to discuss future energy projects. Senior executives from Balfour Beatty, Mace, and L&G were in attendance.

With the adoption of a Regulated Asset Base (RAB) funding model in October 2021, the government outlined how it plans to fund new nuclear power plant construction in the UK. According to the model, UK energy bill payers would contribute to the construction of new plants by paying a portion of their energy bills, relieving pressure on private investors and lowering overall costs, according to the government.

By 2030, seven of the UK’s eight nuclear power plants will be shut down. Hinkley Point C is currently under construction by EDF and is expected to be operational by 2026. Sizewell C has the potential to power six million homes.

Several development plans for the Wylfa Newydd site on Anglesey are also in the works, including one by Rolls-Royce to build small modular reactors there.

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