Market Intelligence
Civil Nuclear Power United Kingdom

United Kingdom Nuclear Energy

The United Kingdom has 15 operational nuclear reactors operating, which comprise just less than20% of the United Kingdom’s electricity. Over the past year nuclear energy avoided 22.7 million metric tonnes of CO2 emissions in the UK – this is the equivalent of taking around a third of all cars in the UK off the road. 

Fourteen of the fifteen operating reactors are scheduled to be shut down by 2030, but the United Kingdom has plans to bring new plants online by 2025 to offset some of the expected loss in nuclear generation. The United Kingdom had a goal of 16 GWe of installed nuclear capacity by 2030, but those targets have collapsed due to a number of proposed projects failing to identify necessary financing. The need for new nuclear power is especially significant with the United Kingdom’s policy of phasing out coal-fired generation without CO2 abatement in 2025; the United Kingdom’s 2019 law to bring the country to zero net emissions by 2050; and the goal of electrifying much of the transportation and heating sectors in the coming decades. The first new-generation plants are expected to be on line by about 2025. No restriction on foreign equity is in place.  

The country also has full fuel cycle facilities from fuel manufacture and reactor operation through to reprocessing and recycling of nuclear materials followed by dismantling and decommissioning. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which was established to supervise decommissioning and clean-up work, will be spending over $7bn over the next couple of years. 

Despite these opportunities, there are issues with the local content requirements, foreign competition and financing. Local content requirements support the use of local companies reducing the amount of U.S. export content that can be devoted to a project. Additionally, foreign involvement and ownership provide obstacles to U.S. industry as projects owned by France or China are, or may, move forward. French and Chinese state-backed industries can invest significantly more capital in developing these projects. The UK has privatized power generation and liberalized its electricity market, which together make major capital investments problematic. 


  • Existing plants life extension & New Build: Existing nuclear plants include seven twin-unit AGRs and one PWR, all owned and operated by EDF Energy, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the EDF Group (headquartered in France), one of Europe’s largest energy groups.  EDF Energy spends about $800 million per year on plant upgrades to enable ongoing operation. EDF Energy is building two Areva (France) EPRs at Hinkley Point, Somerset. Construction at started in 2018 and EDF plans to have the first of these new reactors grid-connected by 2026. The project is valued at $25-27 bn. Hinkle Point is a joint venture of EDF (66.5%) with China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN) (33.5%). 
  • Small and Advances Modular Reactors: in March 2016, the United Kingdom published the first phase of a competition to identify the best value SMR for the United Kingdom. In August 2018, a public-private SMR Expert Finance Working Group published recommendations on encouraging SMR development. Key recommendations included revising financing models, making sites available for first-of-a-kind projects, making green bonds available to small nuclear projects, and supporting late-stage R&D grant funding in exchange for IP and other benefits generally given to investors. In the Nuclear Industry Council’s Nuclear Sector Deal (NSD) published in June 2018, the United Kingdom laid out its commitment to developing and deploying advanced nuclear technologies by providing roughly $75 million for research and development of advanced modular reactors and establishment of a framework to support the development and deployment of small modular reactors. U.S. SMR and AMR technology providers have an opportunity to expand into the UK market. 
  • Decommissioning: The NDA owns 19 nuclear sites across the UK and is responsible for delivering the decommissioning and clean-up of the UK’s civil nuclear legacy. It aims to do this by introducing innovation and contractor expertise through a series of competitions. For the supply chain, decommissioning is a significant market: the United Kingdom plans to shut down fourteen reactors by 2030 and currently spends approximately $3.71 billion annually on decommissioning.  

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