Mini-nukes to be built in Hartlepool under multimillion-pound proposal

An artist's impression of an Xe-100 power plant
An artist's impression of an Xe-100 power plant - X-Energy

Hartlepool could host a fleet of mini-nuclear reactors within a decade after the Government awarded a multimillion-pound grant to engineering group Babcock to explore the project’s feasibility.

X-Energy and Cavendish Nuclear, which is owned by FTSE 250 group Babcock, have won funding from the Future Nuclear Enabling Fund to progress plans to build new mini-nukes in Teesside.

The companies are developing advanced nuclear power plants known as small modular reactors (SMRs). The hope is that these mini-nukes could be partly built in factories and constructed in large numbers of locations, providing cheaper green energy than larger nuclear sites.

X-Energy and Cavendish Nuclear want to build a 12-reactor nuclear plant in the North East. Mick Gornall, managing director of Cavendish Nuclear, said the goal ultimately is to develop “a fleet” of such reactors, which the company calls Xe-100s.

He said: “A fleet of Xe-100s can complement renewables by providing constant or flexible power and produce steam to decarbonise industry and manufacture hydrogen and synthetic transport fuels.

“Deployment in the UK will create thousands of high-quality, long-term jobs across the country.”

The Government has awarded the companies £3.34m to explore the plans, with X-energy investing the same amount.

Britain’s plans to renew its nuclear industry have so far been blighted by cost overruns and planning delays.

Hinkley Point C, in Somerset, is set to cost as much as £35bn, which is more than £10bn than previous estimates, and will be delivered four years later than planned.

Rolls-Royce in February threatened to put its first mini reactors in Europe instead of the UK over delays in government decision making.

Great British Nuclear, the public body charged with preparing the way for a “nuclear renaissance”, last month delayed its decision on where the first mini-nukes will be sited until after the next general election, amid fears the losers may threaten legal action.

Andrew Bowie, the minister for nuclear and renewables, said innovation was key to building out the sector, as he awarded the new funding.

He said: “We are backing innovation in nuclear – from building large-scale plants better to encouraging new advanced technologies – to achieve our ambition for a quarter of our electricity to come from nuclear power by 2050.

“This funding supports the next step in the development of advanced modular reactors and shows our commitment to keeping the UK at the forefront of nuclear technology.”

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