Framatome planning UK nuclear fuel fabrication facility

29 November 2023

French company Framatome is planning the construction of a nuclear fuel fabrication facility in the UK as part of its plans to scale-up its operations in the country. In a separate development it also announced it was setting up a joint venture with Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation.

Framatome's CEO and USNC's Executive Vice President Kurt Terrani following the joint venture announcement (Image: Framatome)

The company says that the proposed facility in the UK will manufacture nuclear fuel for large pressurised water reactors and for light water small modular reactors - these categories include parent company EDF's two EPRs under construction at Hinkley Point C and proposed similar-sized development at Sizewell C.

Consultation about possible locations - at existing and former nuclear sites - for the fabrication facility is taking place with the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, with the company aiming for "detailed site justification and pre-licensing studies" in 2024 with the Office for Nuclear Regulation.

Bernard Fontana, CEO of Framatome, said: "We have been supporting the UK nuclear power market for over 25 years ... we remain deeply committed to helping the country meet its net zero targets. This multi-design fuel fabrication facility will help reduce UK reliance on imports and strengthen security of fuel supply through a diverse and resilient supply chain."

Framatome and Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation

At the World Nuclear Exhibition in Paris, Framatome, which is 75% owned by EDF, with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries holding 19.5% and Assystem 5%, also signed an agreement to create a joint venture with Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) to provide nuclear fuel for its fourth-generation Micro-Modular Reactor (MMR) and other advanced reactor designs. The fuel will include Tri-structural Isotropic (TRISO) particles and USNC’s proprietary Fully Ceramic Microencapsulated (FCM) fuel.

Framatome's manufacturing and regulatory licensing are to be amended, with the company having notified the USA's Nuclear Regulatory Commission of its intent to submit the amendments next summer. The need to secure sufficient supplies of fuel continues to be one of the key challenges for developers of advanced nuclear reactors.

Framatome CEO Fontana said: "Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation is at the forefront of the next generation of nuclear energy, and together, we are committed to developing new opportunities in the nuclear energy industry through this joint venture. Combining our unmatched manufacturing expertise and experience in regulatory compliance, and USNC’s advanced reactor designs, we are ready to support rapid expansion of fourth-generation nuclear power to meet the projected growth and demand for safe, reliable, clean energy in the US and global markets."

Francesco Venneri, CEO of Ultra Safe Nuclear, said: "Framatome’s leadership in nuclear energy is built in part on a solid foundation of excellence, innovation, quality and delivery of increasingly high-performance, advanced fuels. This joint venture brings Framatome’s high-quality capabilities and high-confidence capacity together with Ultra Safe Nuclear’s breakthrough fuel technologies and intrinsically safe design to fuel the MMR."

USNC's MMR is a 45 MW thermal, 15 MW electrical high-temperature gas-cooled reactor, using TRISO fuel in prismatic graphite blocks. The graphite blocks contain stacks of ceramic FCM fuel pellets. The helium-cooled reactor can be flexibly fuelled with uranium enrichments from 9% to 19.75% and will have an initial licensed nuclear plant lifetime of 40 years.

The company is currently working on deployment projects at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories' Chalk River site in Ontario, Canada, and at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in the USA.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News