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Awards 2024

Kier signs up for nuclear feasibility studies

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

CGI of an Xe-100 nuclear power plant [X-energy]
CGI of an Xe-100 nuclear power plant [X-energy]

Kier, X-energy and Cavendish Nuclear will co-operate to explore opportunities around the deployment of a fleet of Xe-100 Generation IV advanced modular reactors in the UK following the award of a grant to X-energy and Cavendish Nuclear from the government’s Future Nuclear Enabling fund.

X-energy Reactor Company is a private American nuclear reactor and fuel design engineering company. It is developing a Generation IV high-temperature gas-cooled pebble-bed nuclear reactor design.

The government’s £3.34m grant will be matched by X-energy, providing a total fund of £6.68m. The companies will use the funds to develop UK-specific deployment plans including an assessment of domestic manufacturing and supply chain opportunities, constructability, modularisation studies, and fuel management.

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 USA 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.

“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," said Andrew Bradshaw, managing director for Kier Natural Resources, Nuclear & Networks.

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.

X-energy vice president Carol Tansley, who oversees the company’s UK new build projects, 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 under way 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 subsidiary of Babcock International, 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 ‘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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