Interim approval granted for EPR and AP1000

Nuclear reactor providers Areva and Westinghouse have received interim approval for their reactors to be built in the UK. However, both companies must resolve some outstanding issues before construction can begin.

In the final stage of the UK government’s Generic Design Assessment of the Areva UK EPR and Westinghouse AP1000, the Office for Nuclear Regulation has issued interim design acceptance confirmations for both reactor designs. The Environment Agency has also issured interim statements of design acceptability.

This means that the two regulatory agencies are satisfied with how the reactor designers plan to resolve a small number of remaining issues.

Kevin Allars, director for nuclear new build at the Office for Nuclear Regulation, said: “We have reached an important milestone. This interim acceptance confirms that all the plans on how the industry will resolve the outstanding issues are in place. This includes how they will address matters raised in the chief nuclear inspector’s report, published in October, on lessons learnt for the UK from Fukushima. It is for the designers now to satisfy us that they have resolved these issues. We will not allow industry to build the reactors until they have done so.”

The regulators have published detailed reports on the two designs, summarising their decision and providing detailed technical information. All documents are available from the ONR website.

Generic design approval is a key step towards approval for new nuclear power stations, by approving a standard reactor design which can be built in different locations by different developers. The utility groups planning to build new plant will also need further approvals including a nuclear site licence, environmental permits, and planning consent.

The news was welcomed by the reactor providers.

Mike Tynan, vice president for Westinghouse, said: “This announcement marks a tremendous milestone on the road towards seeing AP1000 reactors built in the UK. These interim approvals demonstrate clearly that the regulators believe the design will meet UK safety and environmental requirements and, although there remain a number of pieces of work to complete, the remaining activity does not pose a substantial risk to final approvals being granted.

“Some of the additional work required to go from Interim to Final approval status has already been carried out, some is currently in progress, and we will embark on the remainder once we have been selected as the preferred reactor design by a UK utility customer.”

Alain-Pierre Raynaud, chairman of Areva UK, said: “We have already closed out a number of the outstanding issues and look forward to satisfying the regulators on any remaining questions, including those raised by Fukushima. This will open the way to construction of the first EPR in the UK and all the benefits our low carbon technology will bring in terms of employment and assured energy supply.”

The EPR has been selected by EDF Energy for its proposed new stations at Hinkley Point and Sizewell. Chief executive Vincent de Rivaz said: “This is very good news for the EPR and for UK new nuclear build. It is a major milestone which follows a detailed four-year review by one of the most rigorous independent nuclear safety authorities in the world. We are conscious that there is still a lot to do to achieve final certification, and we will do it.”

Low-carbon landmark as wind turbine installed

The Nuclear AMRC now boasts a new low-carbon landmark, with the installation of a 99 metre wind turbine.

Sited immediately outside the Nuclear AMRC research factory at the Advanced Manufacturing Park, South Yorkshire, the Powerwind 56 turbine will significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the centre.

The turbine has a rated power output of 900kW. Onshore wind turbines in the UK typically operate at an average of 25% of the rated output, so the Nuclear AMRC’s turbine should generate an average of over 5000kWh per day, equivalent to the electricity used by 500 households.

The Powerwind 56 turbine is the first of its kind to be installed in the UK. The turbine includes advanced design features adapted from the largest multi-megawatt designs, including a water-cooled generator and full-scale converter which allow smooth operation in rough conditions and minimise the risk of noise and visual disturbance.

The turbine took a week to install, with the 56m-diameter rotor head attached to the 71m tower in the afternoon of Saturday 19 November. Final testing and commissioning will take around a month.

The Nuclear AMRC development also includes ground source heat pumps, with a capacity of 320kW, to provide heating for the centre. The building has been designed to ‘Excellent’ BREEAM standards for sustainability, emphasising the contribution that nuclear power can make to a mixed low-carbon economy.

The Nuclear AMRC’s turbine is the largest to be installed on the Advanced Manufacturing Park, formerly the site of the Waverley colliery, on the boundary of Sheffield and Rotherham. The turbine is visible from the M1 motorway around the Tinsley viaduct – formerly the location of a coal-fired power station whose landmark cooling towers were demolished in 2008, and where construction will soon start on a new biomass power plant.

Training Centre wins government support

The new Advanced Manufacturing Institute Training Centre will help close the skills gap in the UK nuclear manufacturing supply chain.

The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Institute (AMI), which includes the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Nuclear AMRC), has secured government backing for a new Training Centre to open in autumn 2013.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills has awarded £9.2 million from the Regional Growth Fund to establish the Training Centre, which will provide training for companies along the supply chain in high-value manufacturing sectors.

The AMI Training Centre will provide training in the practical and academic skills that manufacturing companies need to compete globally, from high-level apprenticeships through to Doctorate and MBA level.

Young people entering the AMI Training Centre will embark on a lifetime of learning that can take them through specialised technician training, part-time undergraduate and Masters study, to Executive MBA and Engineering Doctorate study, all within the same institution.

Over 200 apprentices will enter the AMI Training Centre each year, where they will receive nine to 12 months of intensive skills training. The training schedule will be guided by the AMI’s industrial partners (including Nuclear AMRC member companies) and participating companies.

Sheffield Hallam University will deliver part-time BEng programme, while the University of Sheffield will deliver part-time MSc, MBA, Executive MBA and EngD programmes.

Professor Keith Ridgway OBE, Executive Dean of Manufacturing at the AMI and Programme Director at the Nuclear AMRC, said: “We are delighted that the government is supporting  us in this initiative. It will encourage more manufacturing companies to employ young people, with the confidence that they are receiving the world class skills training they need to compete in today’s advanced manufacturing sectors.”

Tony Pedder, Pro Chancellor and Chair of the AMI, said: “This is great news for manufacturing, particularly in the local region. The University’s AMI Training Centre will equip the next generation of manufacturers with world-class advanced manufacturing skills, something that will provide a real boost to growth.”

The AMI Training Centre will be based in a new 5,000 sq m building, to be situated close to the Nuclear AMRC and AMRC with Boeing on the Advanced Manufacturing Park, South Yorkshire.  It will open for business in September 2013. Total costs for establishing the Training Centre are £20.5 million, with the remainder coming from participating companies and other funding streams.

The Nuclear AMRC is developing a programme of skills and training services to ensure that the UK nuclear manufacturing supply chain has the skills required to compete in the global market.

The Advanced Manufacturing Institute (AMI) is a new self-standing centre for research, knowledge exchange, teaching and learning within the academic structure of the University of Sheffield. AMI was created in 2011 in response to the continued success and growth of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing. It includes the AMRC with Boeing, the Nuclear AMRC, and the new Knowledge Transfer Centre (due to open in the new year).

European research leaders visit Nuclear AMRC

Leading nuclear researchers from across Europe visited the Nuclear AMRC as part of a tour of key UK reserch facilities.

The UK Tour of Nuclear Research Facilities was organised by the UK Science and Innovation Network team from the British Embassy in Switzerland, and included senior figures from organisations including:

  • CEA (Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission), France
  • Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany
  • Nuclear Research Institute Rez, Czech Republic
  • Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group, Netherlands
  • Paul Scherrer Institute, Switzerland
  • SCK-CEN (Nuclear Research Centre), Belgium
  • VTT Technical Research Centre, Finland
  • European Commision Joint Research Centre

During their visit to the Nuclear AMRC, the group heard about the centre’s operations and how it works with companies along the civil nuclear supply chain. Operations director Steve Court explained the centre’s work in manufacturing process R&D and support in training, quality and business development.

The Nuclear AMRC is focused on supporting the UK nuclear manufacturing sector, but works with institutions and companies across Europe on collaborative research projects addressing major industry issues.

The visitors also heard Professor Neil Hyatt of the University of Sheffield’s Immobilisation Science Laboratory (ISL) talk about other world-leading nuclear research in Sheffield. The ISL is the UK’s largest research group focusing purely on nuclear waste management. It is developing innovative technologies in areas such as large-scale vitrification of waste, and remediation of land contaminated by depleted uranium munitions.

Hyatt also introduced the Nuclear FIRST doctoral training centre, a collaboration between the Universities of Sheffield and Manchester.

The party were then given a tour of the Nuclear AMRC’s new facility at the Advanced Manufacturing Park in South Yorkshire, and a demonstration of  virtual reality technology used for design, simulation and training.

The four-day tour also included a visit to the new Nuclear AMRC Laboratory at the Dalton Nuclear Institute in Manchester, plus the new Dalton Cumbrian Facility and the National Nuclear Laboratory in Sellafield, and Imperial College London.

The tour provided an overview of the nuclear sector and research community in the UK, with a focus on developing contacts to help UK and European researchers work together on collaborative projects.

The UK Science and Innovation Network is jointly funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). This tour is part of a series of events organised by the Science and Innovation team in Berne (Switzerland) in support of the British Government’s commitment to nuclear energy as a key component in delivering the UK’s low carbon economy.

Robot machining research at SAE Congress

Research involving the Nuclear AMRC’s innovative robotic machining cell has been presented at a high-profile engineering conference in Toulouse, France.

Speaking at the prestigious SAE AeroTech Congress, Roger Holden of Nikon Metrology presented progress on the project jointly led by Dave Stoddart, robotics project manager at the Nuclear AMRC.

“We’ve proven that we can tackle different metals with the robot, including stainless steel,” says Holden. “The project is focused on the very large scale manufacturing that you’re looking for in nuclear, but at a reasonable cost, without turning the whole building into a huge gantry access system. We’ve proven what we initially set out to prove, though there is still much more research and development to do.”

The robot cell has now been installed in the Nuclear AMRC’s research factory in South Yorkshire, following initial trials at Nikon Metrology’s workshop in Tamworth. The project aims to develop a single automated system which can carry out a range of processes such as machining, welding, dressing and inspection over a large area to very high precisions.

“Traditionally, the manufacture of very large components involves very large machines, and you spend a huge amount of time moving the components between various machines and processes,” explains Stoddart. “The principle behind robot machining is simple – it’s a lot more efficient, cost-effective and safe to bring the machines and processes to the component.

“This adds a huge amount of flexibility to the manufacturing processes, while dramatically reducing the capital expenditure associated with traditional milling machines.”

The robot cell provided by Nikon Metrology is based around a hexapod robot from Fanuc Robotics which can carry a variety of tool heads. The robot’s position is tracked by an indoor GPS system. In trials, accuracies of 0.2mm have been achieved.

“We were targeting around 1mm,” notes Holden. “We will be able to get even higher precisions if we control the tool itself, but we’re only tracking the robot base at the moment.”

Although the Nuclear AMRC project is focused on nuclear manufacturing applications, robotic machining technology is also the subject of intense interest from the aerospace industry.

The SAE AeroTech Congress is a globally recognised engineering forum, held in Europe every four years. For more information, see http://www.sae.org/events/atc/

 


 

Nuclear AMRC machining group manager Stuart Dawson also presented the research at the MWP Advanced Manufacturing Summit in November 2011. The video below was edited from footage prepared for his presentation, and shows the flexibility and accuracy of movement of the robotic system.

Industry absorbs lessons from Weightman report

UK nuclear developers have committed to act on the recommendations of the final Weightman report on lessons from the Fukushima crisis.

Mike Weightman, the UK’s chief inspector of nuclear installations, last week delivered his final report highlighting 38 areas where government, industry and regulators can learn lessons from the Japanese experience.

Weightman concluded that an analysis of the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident revealed no fundamental safety weaknesses in the UK’s nuclear industry, but that the industry can be made even safer. The report expands on the interim report released in May, which found 25 areas for review.

Recommendations relevant to the nuclear industry cover areas such as:

  • Off-site infrastructure resilience
  • Multi-reactor sites
  • Spent fuel strategies
  • Site and plant layout
  • Fuel pond design
  • On- and off-site electricity supply
  • Coolant supplies
  • Combustible gas management
  • Emergency control centres, instrumentation and communications
  • Human capabilities and capacities

Weightman said: “I remain confident that our UK nuclear facilities have no fundamental safety weaknesses. The Office for Nuclear Regulation already requires protection of nuclear sites against the worst-case scenarios that are predictable for the UK. But we are not complacent. Our philosophy is one of continuous improvement. No matter how high our standards, the quest for improvement must never stop.

“We will ensure lessons are learned from Fukushima. Action has already been taken in many cases, with work underway to further enhance safety at UK sites.”

The groups planning new nuclear plant in the UK welcomed the report.

EDF Energy chief executive Vincent de Rivaz said: “We will review his findings in detail and build them into our plans.  We have already committed to implementing his recommendations for us in full.

“We welcome Dr Weightman’s reaffirmation that ‘UK nuclear facilities have no fundamental safety weaknesses’. He also said that the industry had responded ‘constructively and responsibly’ and specifically that EDF Energy had shown ‘appropriate commitment’ to address his recommendations.”

Alan Raymant, chief operating officer of Horizon Nuclear Power, also welcomed Weightman’s findings.

“We also welcome the fact that the assessment of UK reactor designs was put on hold to ensure the report’s findings could be incorporated,” Raymant said. “The UK nuclear industry has a strong track record of learning safety lessons and this should always be the priority. We will of course review the report in detail, but we agree with all the recommendations relating to new build and intend to incorporate them, from the development stage of our project onwards.”

For further information, and to download the complete report, see http://www.hse.gov.uk/nuclear/fukushima/final-report.htm

TIC opens for business

The new Technology & Innovation Centre (TIC) for High Value Manufacturing has officially opened for business.

The TIC is a consortium of seven established manufacturing research centres, including the Nuclear AMRC, with the mission of stimulating UK manufacturing and reducing the risk of innovation for new and established businesses.

The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) is investing £140 million over six years in the new centre. The funding will allow the individual centres to expand their own facilities and resources, and create a national network capable of addressing high-value sectors from pharmaceuticals to power generation.

Business secretary Vince Cable MP declared the TIC open at the TSB’s Innovate ’11 conference in London in October.

The other centres in the TIC are:

  • University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing
  • Advanced Forming Research Centre at the University of Strathclyde
  • Centre for Process Innovation in Teesside
  • Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry
  • National Composites Centre at the University of Bristol
  • Warwick Manufacturing Group

New support for Yorkshire SMEs

The Nuclear AMRC is launching a new programme to help manufacturing SMEs in the Yorkshire & Humber region access the opportunities of the nuclear industry.

The Nuclear Supply Opportunities for Yorkshire programme is based around a one-day workshop designed to give SMEs the information they need to make the strategic decision on whether to pursue opportunities in the sector. The first workshop was held in October, with further workshops taking place each month.

Places are now available for the following dates:

  • 13 June
  • 11 July

The workshop includes a one-to-one Nuclear Diagnostic Assessment to let companies measure their performance against the standards required by the industry leaders. Participants can then arrange a site visit and full business review by one of our nuclear and manufacturing experts.

Nuclear Supply Opportunities for Yorkshire is a regional initiative from the Nuclear AMRC, delivered by Director Resource and Brook Corporate Developments. For more information, download the flyer (PDF) or contact Dave Roberts: dave.roberts@namrc.co.uk

Inspection agency requirements

The Nuclear AMRC and Manufacturing Advisory Service present a workshop for companies which are interested in entering the supply chain for nuclear new-build, but which have limited experience in nuclear manufacturing. The half-day workshop, delivered by Parsons Brinckerhoff, introduces the quality demands of nuclear manufacturing, and describe the roles and responsibilities of manufacturers.

The workshop focuses on what Inspection Agencies look for when assessing a nuclear manufacturer. Independent third-party inspectors are typically commissioned by the utilities buying new nuclear plant, to ensure that their suppliers conform to industry specifications. The inspectors are charged with assessing suppliers against contractual requirements and industry standards for the production of equipment for new nuclear power plant. Attendance is free to representatives of interested UK manufacturing companies, but places are limited.

Following a successful workshop in December, further events will be held around the UK in 2012. For more information, download the flyer or contact Nuclear AMRC head of quality Paul Bunting.

AMF: Nuclear quality

Tuesday 18 October 2011.

The latest in the AMRC’s popular series of Advanced Manufacturing Forum events looks at the complex area of quality and accreditation for the nuclear supply chain.

The event includes presentations from leading companies along the civil nuclear supply chain, plus specialist quality consultants, including: EDF Energy; Sheffield Forgemasters International; Parsons Brinckerhoff; and Lloyd’s Register.

To find out more, download the flyer.