UK opens applications for GBP60 million HTGR research

13 December 2022

The UK government's funding of GBP60 million (USD 74m) for research into High Temperature Gas Reactors, a type of Advanced Modular Reactor (AMR), aims to help get a demonstration project up and running by the end of the decade.

(Image: BEIS)

The UK government's funding announcements on Tuesday also included GBP4 million for the AMR Knowledge Capture Project, which seeks to "facilitate knowledge capture and sharing to reduce the time, risk and cost of the programme delivery".

In the briefing document for grant applications, published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), it says that for the UK, AMRs are likely to have the following characteristics:

  • Use novel coolants and/or fuels and typically have higher temperature outputs in the range of 700-950°C (compared with 300°C for Light Water Reactors or 600°C for Advanced Gas Reactors
  • Generally have a lower power output than large nuclear reactor technology
  • Likely to be designed so that much of the plant can be fabricated in a factory environment and transported to site, to reduce build time and costs

Following an initial call for evidence, the focus for the AMR R&D programme was placed on High Temperature Gas Reactor (HTGR) technology last year, but BEIS "are not currently aware of any viable fully commercial proposals for HTGRs that could be deployed in time to make an impact on Net Zero by 2050. Current evidence suggests that low technology readiness, in the context of potential commercial applications may be one of the reasons for this market failure. Therefore BEIS will provide support to a demonstration that will address this technology gap and enable HTGRs to contribute to the Net Zero 2050 target".

It adds: "This demonstration, which is to be sited in the UK, must be shaped by end-user requirements, and should incentivise private investment in HTGRs by removing technical risk. It should aim to have innovation at the centre of its design, licensing, manufacture, build, and application."

Phase A of the AMR R&D programme led to six successful bidders for pre-FEED (Front End Engineering Design) studies for reactor demonstration and fuel demonstration. Phase B, which has an application deadline of 5 March 2023, is described as "an open, competition-based programme designed to produce up to two HTGR FEED mature enough to enter regulatory review, carry out associated research and development activities, and produce robust delivery plans for a potential Phase C". It says Phase B will conclude in February 2025.

In a separate announcement, the UK government allocated GBP13 million for nuclear fuel fabricator Westinghouse's Lancashire site, saying it has "strategic importance to producing fuel for the current UK gas cooled reactor fleet - the funding will mean the UK has the option of being less reliant on imports from abroad and helps the company develop the capability to making both reprocessed uranium and freshly mined uranium".

"As well as bolstering UK energy security, ministers hope it will also deliver export opportunities for the sector and position the UK as a key international supplier of nuclear fuel and fuel cycle services," BEIS added.

Tarik Choho, president of Nuclear Fuel at Westinghouse, said: "There is a strong global appetite for diversified and secure sources of supply of fuel and services and the UK’s nuclear excellence and experience, particularly at Springfields, offer utilities an attractive option. We are delighted the UK government recognises the role of Springfields, and its workforce, as a strategic asset that supports a clean and secure energy future."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News