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Balfour Beatty signs new deal with nuclear developer

Balfour Beatty has signed a memorandum of understanding with Holtec, a US nuclear firm that is looking to develop small nuclear plants and a factory in the UK.

In December 2022, the UK’s largest contractor agreed to work with Holtec on early plans for small modular nuclear reactors in the UK – but last week signed a new, more comprehensive deal with the US nuclear giant to draw up designs for a new nuclear plant.

Holtec was awarded £30m from the government’s Future Nuclear Enabling Fund in December to complete a generic design assessment of its small modular reactor (SMR) technology, known as SMR-300. The company is also backed by an $116m (£90.5m) grant awarded by the US Department of Energy in 2020.

Holtec is also one of six companies shortlisted by government-owned Great British Nuclear in a competition to establish the most viable SMR designs. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said in the Spring Budget last week that the companies would be asked to return tenders by June.

Engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald and Korean manufacturer Hyundai also signed the memorandum of understanding with Holtec during a meeting at the Republic of Korea’s Embassy in London last Tuesday (5 March).

The meeting was hosted by Korean ambassador Yoon Yeocheol and UK trade envoy Sir John Whittingdale MP and included senior directors from each of the companies, including Balfour Beatty chief executive Leo Quinn.

Last week, Holtec also launched a competition to find a site in the UK to build a new £600m factory and export hub to produce SMR-300 technology. Local authorities and businesses have been invited to submit expressions of interest to host the factory, according to Reuters, which first reported the news.

Holtec said it expects exports from the factory to be worth £4bn a year to the UK in 2030, adding that 400 highly-skilled jobs could be created in the next three to five years.

Balfour Beatty’s Quinn said: “The next decade of infrastructure growth is going to be defined by energy security and net zero. Nuclear is a critical part of that transition.

“The UK needs a clean, low-cost, reliable energy supply in order to help reindustrialise the UK. Our SMR partnership with Holtec, Hyundai E&C and Mott MacDonald will redefine on-time and on-budget delivery and bring best delivery from around the world.”

Last week the government revealed it is buying two nuclear sites from Japanese conglomerate Hitatchi for £160m. The sites are in Ynys Môn, Wales, and Oldbury-on-Severn in South Gloucestershire.

Hunt said nuclear power should provide up to a quarter of the UK's electricity by 2050, adding: “I want the UK to lead the global race in developing cutting-edge nuclear technologies.”

Balfour Beatty signs new deal with nuclear developer | Construction News