Teesside shortlisted in search for £1.3bn reactor factory site with potential to create 4,000 jobs

The Net Zero Cluster and Teesmouth area.
-Credit: (Image: Tom Banks)

Teesside has reached the final stages of competition to find a site for a new £1.3bn Small Modular Reactors factory, potentially creating 4,000 jobs.

Holtec Britain has issued a shortlist of four locations which could host the new plant, which will build up to four Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) a year to be deployed across the UK, Europe and the Middle East. If chosen by the Government, the 20-hectare factory could generate thousands of jobs over the next 15 years – 3,600 during the construction phase and 400 once operational – while also helping the UK to meet its net zero goals and a target of having 24GW of nuclear capacity by 2050.

Local authorities and businesses were invited to submit Expressions of Interest (EOIs) earlier this year, and were assessed on deliverability, connectivity, regeneration potential, skills and research, and quality of life. Of the 13 that took part the four through to the final stage are South Yorkshire Combined Authority, West Midlands Combined Authority, Tees Valley Combined Authority and Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (CLEP).

A final decision on the scheme will be made by the Government later this year. Holtec’s technology has been shortlisted by GBN (Great British Nuclear) as one of six firms to lead the nuclear reactor project, alongside EDF, GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy International LLC, NuScale Power, Rolls Royce SMR and Westinghouse Electric Company UK Limited.

The Tees Valley has reached the shortlist for three SMR sites. The Holtec Britain scheme, which would help in the construction of two to four reactors a year and would see no nuclear fuel based at the site, has been touted to add £100m to the local economy every year once it is up and running.

The region has also chosen as a base for four SMRs by American power giant Westinghouse – with the quartet set to come on stream at Seal Sands in the early 2030s – while Tees Valley also reached the final shortlist of three in Rolls Royce’s SMR push two years ago.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “We’re at the forefront of clean energy technology across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool – and this shortlisting shows how we’re truly the capital of growth for Small Modular Reactor technology. I’m confident we can convince Holtec we’re the premium site given our deep knowledge base in engineering, our great transport links via the Tees, and huge potential we have at our Freeport.

“The potential for another 400 highly skilled well-paid jobs for local people is another huge boost. This once again shows we’re putting down a marker to the rest of the world and showing we’re a powerhouse in green energy production and manufacturing on a global stage.”

New analysis carried out by the economics consultancy Chamberlain Walker anticipates that the planned factory will be part of an export market which could be worth hundreds of billions in the run up to 2050. The project is also expected to contribute around £1.5bn in Gross Value Added (GVA) to the final site’s economy.

Holtec’s senior adviser in the UK, Professor Dame Julia King, said: “We were very pleased to receive 13 detailed responses from partners across the country backed by local MPs and leaders of local and combined authorities. We have now chosen the four leading bids and in the next few months I look forward to visiting all four locations and working with the team assessing the bids with a view to making successful final selection.

“The impact on the local economy for the successful bidder will be game changing. The construction phase is anticipated to directly generate around 3,600 jobs, while the manufacturing operations will sustain up to 400 jobs annually. The UK target of net zero by 2050 is one we must meet. Nuclear will play an important role in meeting that target, in the UK and globally. The Holtec Small Modular Reactor offers safe, reliable and clean baseload capacity based on existing proven technology.”

Holtec’s technology has been shortlisted by GBN (Great British Nuclear) alongside EDF, GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy International LLC, NuScale Power, Rolls Royce SMR and Westinghouse Electric Company UK Limited for deployment in the UK and is currently undergoing the Generic Design Assessment by the Office for Nuclear Regulation.

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