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May 30, 2023

Modular nuclear firm launches £900m equity raise

Modular nuclear firm launches £900m equity raise

A UK and EU-based company developing small modular reactors (SMRs) has announced an equity raise of up to £900m for development of its work.

Newcleo, which has registered businesses in Italy, France and the UK, is developing what it calls lead-cooled fast nuclear reactors, and plans to manufacture fuel from nuclear waste.

The reactors will have the benefits of other types of proposed SMRs – which are small-scale nuclear plants built offsite in factories – as well as being able to use up existing stocks of nuclear waste, the firm said in a statement.

Launched in September 2021, the company has already completed two capital raises worth a total of £353m. According to reports in the The Times and Financial Times, Italy’s influential Agnelli family is a backer of the firm.

Among its plans are the establishment of mixed plutonium-uranium oxide (MOX) production plants in France and the UK.

MOX is a nuclear fuel that consists of plutonium and depleted uranium – a byproduct of the enrichment process of traditional reactors – for which there is currently no use, but there are significant disposal costs.

Newcleo said this meant its reactors help remove radioactive waste and avoid the need to mine for new nuclear fuel. It has made an application to the UK Office for Nuclear Regulation for approval for the technology, it added.

Newcleo chairman and chief executive Stefano Buono said: “Between now and 2050, electricity demand is set to triple, driven by economic growth and electrification. This is a huge increase, and against a backdrop of necessary decarbonisation.

“Our technology can address decarbonisation of the energy systems and security of energy supply, two of the biggest challenges facing countries around the world.”

The company is entering a competitive market in the UK, with players including Rolls-Royce SMR – a consortium including Laing O’Rourke and Bam Nuttall among others, which has received government funding to develop its work. In December, Holtec Britain announced Balfour Beatty and Hyundai Engineering & Construction has signed up to deliver its SMR plans.

Regulatory approval and government orders for a fleet of SMRs are still awaited, despite calls from MPs to speed up the process.

In other small nuclear news this week, Urenco Group, the nuclear fuels giant co-owned by the UK Government, announced its withdrawal from a project to develop advanced modular reactor technology called U-Battery Developments.

The micro reactor system would provide nuclear power to energy-intensive industrial applications and remote communities, if developed.

In 2021, Costain was announced as a partner on the project.

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