Macron convinces UK nuclear startup to build its first factory in France

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London-based nuclear energy startup Newcleo has scrapped plans to build its first power plant in Britain, opting to invest in France instead. 

The move follows extensive lobbying by France’s president Emmanuel Macron, who has personally met with Newcleo’s chief executive and founder Stefano Buono several times, to convince him to build the company’s first modular nuclear reactor in France, the Telegraph reports

Founded in 2021, Newcleo develops small nuclear reactors powered by radioactive waste. The company initially sought to tap the UK’s vast stockpile of nuclear waste at the former Sellafield site to power its reactors. 

But after two years of delays in securing the permits for the factory — along with some wooing from the French president — the startup is now planning to set up shop across the channel. 

Newcleo has started the permitting process with French authorities to build a pilot reactor and a factory to produce nuclear fuel by 2030. Here it will buy nuclear waste from state energy giant EDF. 

However, the company will maintain a strong presence in Italy where it has its R&D department, and where it also designs and manufactures some of its components. 

The pilot reactor and the nuclear waste reprocessing plant are expected to cost in the region of €4bn. Newcleo is currently in talks with investors to raise up to €1bn, adding to the €1.5bn in equity it has already secured. 

In addition, Newcleo last year won a €20mn grant from Bpifrance, the country’s public sector investment bank. It can also benefit from tax credit incentives going forward. The French government is expected to confirm a deal with Newcleo later this year.

Newcleo is part of a new wave of startups disrupting a sector traditionally dominated by state-led, gigawatt-scale projects with huge price tags.  

“The compact nature of small nuclear reactors is a long way from the large plants of the past, offering shorter and easier build times and much more achievable delivery plans,” Elisabeth Rizzotti, COO at Newcleo, told TNW last year

“For Newcleo, our key evolution rests on closing the fuel cycle with the use of mixed oxide (MOX) fuels, which utilise existing nuclear waste. This will decrease the environmental and financial cost of disposing of such waste, reduce proliferation risk, and avoid the need to mine for new nuclear fuel,” she added.


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