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'Strengthened collaboration' to underpin UK nuclear sector deal

Strengthened collaboration and leadership from industry will underpin the successful delivery of the UK government's nuclear sector deal, an expert has said.

The package, announced last week and worth an initial £200 million, has been developed by the government and the Nuclear Industry Council, which represents the industry. It sets out an ambition to deliver up to £2 billion in domestic and international contract wins by 2030, cost savings on new-build and decommissioning, and a more diverse workforce.

"The UK civil nuclear sector presents significant possibilities for owners, developers, investors and the supply chain, through targeted investment, training and innovation," said nuclear power expert Graham Alty of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com. "Both nuclear new build and decommissioning provide excellent opportunities for profitable growth, employment and development of key skills."

"The industry wants nuclear energy to remain competitive against other forms of low-carbon energy – which is why we are committed to working with government to reduce costs across the sector," said Lord Hutton, co-chair of the Nuclear Industry Council. "Today's funding boost will support this common goal; increasing the UK's industrial capabilities as well as signalling our global leadership in nuclear to the rest of the world."

"This demand is exactly why we're putting a strong emphasis on our ambition to secure £2 billion of contracts related to the sector by 2030, both at home and overseas," he said.

The nuclear sector deal is the fifth to be published under the UK government's industrial strategy, designed to boost productivity in targeted areas of the economy. The document recognises the UK's civil nuclear sector as one of the most advanced in the world, which contributes £12.4bn to the UK economy and provides 20% of UK power demand.

The deal sets out the government's commitment to build on the UK's strength in advanced manufacturing techniques to demonstrate 'best in class' construction, operation, support and decommissioning of projects. This will not only help manage costs, but also capitalise on a £75bn domestic market and £100bn worth of international opportunities around waste and decommissioning.

The government is also demonstrating commitment to innovation in the sector, with the bulk of the £200m funding allocated to development of advanced nuclear technologies and research and development. It includes £56m to support advanced nuclear technologies; £86m to support a national fusion technology platform at the UK Atomic Energy Authority's science centre in Culham, Oxfordshire; and £40m towards development of a thermal hydraulics facility in North Wales. It will also set up a new framework to support the development and deployment of small modular reactors using light-water technology, and which are capable of being built off-site.

The deal also provides support for smaller companies in the supply chain through a new national supply chain programme, funded jointly by government and the industry. The £30m programme will provide opportunities for suppliers to access higher value contracts and new markets.

The UK aims to secure a close association with Euratom once the UK leaves the EU, and is putting in place "appropriate measures" to ensure uninterrupted civil nuclear cooperation and trade, according to the sector deal document. The government has already signed new international safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and is putting in place arrangements for continued nuclear cooperation with key trading partners.

The government has legislated to put the legal framework in place for a domestic nuclear safeguards regime under the 2018 Nuclear Safeguards Act, which will be operated by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR). It is currently working closely with the ONR to put in place the necessary measures to ensure that the UK meets its international commitments immediately on EU exit.

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