Make your move into the US$250bn global decom market

With climate change, decarbonisation and COVID-19 throwing the importance of a secure and reliable energy supply into sharp relief, nuclear energy will be a key energy source for decades to come.

The World Nuclear Association estimates that, by 2040, nuclear generation capacity is likely to grow between 170–370GW, representing valuable nuclear new build opportunities. At the back end of the lifecycle, meanwhile, many of the existing international fleet of more than 400 nuclear power reactors are approaching the end of their lifetimes and will require either plant life extension or decommissioning.

Looking at advanced nuclear technologies, the potential benefits of small and advanced nuclear reactors are becoming more widely recognised. Small modular reactors alone are set to have an estimated global market value of £250–400bn just for electricity production by 2035, and progress continues on large and small scale fusion projects.  

Major projects to watch

Kozloduy Nuclear Plant Decommissioning and National Waste Repository

Value: US$2bn
Stage: Engineering, preparation, removal and disposal (EPRD)
Status: Contract awarded
Operator: Bulgarian Energy Holding  

Mülheim-Kärlich Nuclear Power Plant Decommissioning

Value: US$1bn
Stage: EPRD
Status: Contract awarded
Operator: RWE  

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Decommissioning

Value: US$24bn
Stage: EPRD
Status: Contract awarded
Operator: Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco)  

Ignalina 1 & 2 Nuclear Power Plant Decommissioning

Value: US$3690m
Stage: Feasibility
Status: Planning
Operator: Ignalina NPP  

Bohunice V1 Nuclear Power Plant Decommissioning

Value: US$1bn
Stage: EPRD
Status: Contract awarded
Operator: Jadrova a Vyradovacia Spolocnost AS (JAVYS)  

Ringhals Nuclear Power Plant Decommissioning

Value: US$1bn
Stage: Feasibility
Status: Planning
Operator: Ringhals AB  

To identify more opportunities for global growth, track international projects across all energy sectors with EIC DataStream.

Further details can be found at:

Exporting British expertise

The UK has capabilities across the nuclear supply chain, with particular strengths in decommissioning and waste management. This means there is a fantastic opportunity to export British expertise across the globe. The Department for International Trade (DIT) helps companies to take advantage of such prospects by providing strategic market development and export delivery support.

DIT currently has nine priority market campaigns (agreed with UK industry): Canada; Central Europe and Finland; 
China; France; Germany and Sweden; Japan; the Middle East; Ukraine; and the US.

Although these markets are at varying stages in their nuclear journey, all involve some aspect of waste management or decommissioning for future business growth. Some specific examples include:

Germany and Sweden

Germany and Sweden are markets of particularly high interest. Both countries have sizeable funded waste management 
and decommissioning programmes, but local industrial capacity constraints and gaps present various short, medium and long-term opportunities to British companies, especially around integrated waste management, which plays to the UK’s strengths.

These markets are also attractive for UK companies, as doing business is relatively straightforward and high levels of market intelligence help target where UK capability and experience can best support programmes.

DIT has established a working group that facilitates collaborative working for UK companies that have an interest in Germany and Sweden decommissioning markets. This working group is a forum for companies across the supply chain to come together to identify and assess opportunities, and to form collaborations, joint ventures and other groups in pursuit of contracts. In doing so, they overcome the challenges posed by fragmented approaches to opportunities, enhancing credibility with potential customers and partners overseas and improving the chances of winning work.

Central Europe

There is a pipeline of projects across Central Europe. Despite the presence of legacy Russian technology, which can act as a market barrier, and differing local historical, political and cultural relationships with nuclear power, there are many commonalities across the countries in the region – notably, waste issues and spent fuel transport and storage challenges.  

Romania and Hungary represent considerable opportunities for the UK to employ their experience in nuclear waste management. In terms of dismantling and decommissioning, Lithuania is a significant market for UK companies to use their expertise and bid for major tenders to dismantle two RBMK-1500 reactors at Ignalina NPP. There is also ongoing decommissioning work at Kozloduy in Bulgaria and Bohunice in Slovakia, which are both part of European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) funded work.  

The US

The US is a sizeable market with a significant decommissioning programme. Although there is a high level of domestic capability, the close historical relationship between the UK and the US means there is the potential for a collaborative approach to waste management and decommissioning. DIT’s trade development visit to the US in March 2020 sought to assess the level of nuclear trade opportunities, and identified opportunities for the UK supply chain in the Department of Energy legacy decommissioning sector, as site requirements have similarities to the UK programme.

Having a US partner at tier one level, or through supplying via the broader US supply-chain at tier two or three level, 
will strengthen business propositions. However, there are some contracting barriers for non-US entities at these sites, including security-related issues that UK companies should be aware of when reviewing tenders.


Japan is fast becoming the largest nuclear decommissioning and waste management market in the world behind the US, with 24 reactors now in the process of being decommissioned. Since the Fukushima Daiichi accident in 2011, the UK government has been working even more closely with the Japanese authorities to assist them in tackling their complex decontamination and decommissioning challenges.

Decommissioning is not new to Japanese companies, and they continue to dominate the market. However, there are niche areas of opportunity in which UK-based companies – adapting lessons learned from solving similar decommissioning challenges at UK sites – are uniquely positioned to add value. British companies have found success in developing bespoke technology solutions, including long reach manipulator systems for fuel debris retrieval, and in assisting operators progressing plans for standard decommissioning.

A number of companies have already opened offices in Japan and employed local staff, quickly absorbing the uniqueness of the Japanese business culture. DIT staff in the UK and Japan regularly organise business engagement events with EIC and other key stakeholders, including our annual UK–Japan Industry Forum in Tokyo.

Set for global success

With these and other markets embarking on decommissioning programmes and tackling waste management challenges, 
the UK is in a unique position to use the extensive experience and expertise it has developed over several decades to boost exports to these countries. This can be further enhanced by making use of DIT and EIC support, and adopting an approach that takes into account specific market features and requirements.  

Thinking of going global? 

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By Rodney Berkeley, Director, Energy and Infrastructure, Department for International Trade

Image credit | Getty