Kier to collaborate on next generation of UK nuclear reactors

CGI of an Xe-100 nuclear power plant -  image: X-energy

Kier, X-energy and Cavendish Nuclear have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate on the next generation of UK nuclear reactors.

The companies will explore opportunities around the deployment of a fleet of Xe-100 Generation IV Advanced Reactors in the UK following the award of a grant to X-energy and Cavendish Nuclear from the government’s Future Nuclear Enabling fund. 

The government’s award of £3.34m will be matched by X-energy, providing a total fund of £6.68m.

The MoU establishes the basis for Kier to carry out a constructability assessment for the Xe-100 in the UK, adopting lessons learnt from studies in the US and Canada. 

The High-Temperature Gas-cooled ‘pebble bed’ Reactor is designed to have a substantial proportion of modules prefabricated in factory conditions and transported to site for assembly, allowing for a construction time of three to four years.

Andrew Bradshaw, group managing director for Kier Natural Resources, Nuclear and Networks, said: “Kier’s purpose is to sustainably deliver infrastructure which is vital to the UK.

“We have a strong track record of constructing and upgrading nuclear facilities and are committed to using our expertise to enable safe, sustainable and efficient construction while leaving lasting legacies through our work.

“We’re delighted to be working alongside X-energy and Cavendish Nuclear to develop the UK fleet of reactors which will be vital in supporting the growth of the clean energy market.”

The MoU supports X-energy and Cavendish Nuclear’s supply chain development, with the companies seeking to have more than 80% of their project requirements met eventually by British companies.  

Carol Tansley, vice president, UK new build projects at X-energy, said: “Kier is a leading player in construction and infrastructure in the UK.

“They are ideally placed to help us understand how best to capitalise on the work done in North America, including our first project which is already underway in Texas, and translate that into success in the UK market. 

“We intend to deliver a high quality project to cost, schedule, but also to bring benefits to the UK workforce and supply chain, starting at Hartlepool on Teesside.”

Mick Gornall, managing director of Cavendish Nuclear, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Babcock International Group, added: “A UK fleet of Xe-100 reactors would play a crucial role in delivering clean electricity and industrial decarbonisation and also bring huge opportunities for companies right across the UK.

“The MoU follows agreements with Howden and Sheffield Forgemasters and is an important step in establishing the best construction methodology for the UK, and the capabilities and capacity of the UK market to support it.”

Each Xe-100 is capable of producing 200MW of high temperature heat and steam for clean industrial applications as well as 80MW of electricity.  There are plans for around 40 in the UK.

The intrinsically safe ‘pebble’ fuel form acts as a containment vessel, reducing the need for large and complex safety structures. It also means the emergency planning zone is restricted to the site boundary, allowing for more flexibility in siting.   

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