UK to Produce Advanced Uranium and Reduce Dependence on Russia

Russia-India: “We want to increase cooperation in nuclear energy”

After oil and natural gas, the tug-of-war between the West and Russia turns to nuclear energy. The United Kingdom has announced a £300 million (almost €350 million) investment in HALEU-type uranium production to promote energy independence and reduce Russian dominance in the nuclear fuel sector.

In addition to new reactor technologies, nuclear innovation is now associated with uranium. Traditional power plants typically use uranium enriched to 5%. The transition to smaller reactors requires producing more energy per unit volume. To achieve this, new systems require fuel with a higher energy density. HALEU (high-assay low-enriched uranium), U-235 isotope enriched to more than 5% and less than 20%, is the fuel used to power the state-of-the-art nuclear reactors, and Russia is currently the only commercial producer in the world. The United States estimates that by 2030, it will need about 40 tons of HALEU to power its most advanced reactors.

UK Energy Security Minister Claire Coutinho stated bluntly: “Britain gave the world its first nuclear power plant and will now become the first European country outside Russia to produce modern nuclear fuel.” Coutinho said the UK “will be the first country in Europe to launch the HALEU program, strengthening the supply of new nuclear projects and wrestling the monopoly away from Russia.” The investment in HALEU is part of the British program to increase clean nuclear energy production to 24 gigawatts by 2050, equivalent to a quarter of the country’s needs. The funding will “support domestic production of HALEU,” the fuel that is currently “commercially produced only in Russia,” said Coutinho, according to whom production, which should create thousands of new jobs, would be concentrated in the north-west region of England.

But Russia, one of the world’s largest producers of nuclear fuel, is also seeking to strengthen its presence in international markets. In particular, India and Russia intend to expand bilateral cooperation in the field of nuclear energy. This was stated by the Russian Ambassador to India Denis Alipov at the conference of the Russian Discussion Club “Valdai.” “We hope to develop cooperation in the field of nuclear energy with the Indian government, to which Russia wants to offer safer and more modern nuclear reactors of greater power.” The Russian diplomat recalled that “the Indian nuclear power plant in Kudankulam currently has six reactors of one thousand megawatts each, but Russia invited New Delhi to consider the possibility of building latest-generation small nuclear reactors.” According to Alipov, “India has shown interest in both new modular reactors and the latest Russian-made nuclear fuel.”