Nuclear AMRC to support Rolls-Royce SMR development

Rolls-Royce has confirmed that it is working with the Nuclear AMRC and industry partners to bring its proposed small modular reactor (SMR) to market in the UK.

The company is working with Amec Foster Wheeler, Nuvia and Arup in its bid to make SMRs a reality in the UK, with other partners to be identified shortly.

In the first phase of the programme, the Nuclear AMRC will carry out desktop studies on potential methods of manufacture for Rolls-Royce’s new SMR design, and carry out an assessment of the UK supply chain’s capabilities to make the reactor to the required standards.

RR SMR with logo

A statement released by Rolls-Royce said: “We are working with some of Britain’s most experienced civil engineering companies and nuclear research organisations to realise the huge potential of small modular reactors for the wider UK economy. We share a common belief that a home-grown SMR program can play a key role in strengthening the UK’s energy mix and security, while creating valuable intellectual property, exports and jobs. We are working together to deliver a whole power plant which could be up and running in just over a decade and provide a boost for the UK’s industrial strategy.”

Rolls-Royce is developing a modular reactor capable of providing 220–440MWe, depending on configuration, and compact enough to be transported by truck, train or barge. The reactor will use proven technology with a high degree of commercial or standardised components, and is designed specifically for factory manufacture and commissioning. Over 75 per cent of the design by cost is modular, opening up opportunities for UK supply chain companies to enter into volume manufacturing.

RR SMR truck

Rolls-Royce believes a UK SMR could provide a £100 billion boost to the UK economy between 2030 and 2050 if the companies involved are either UK-owned or have a strong UK presence. Developing an SMR in the UK for the world market could create up to 40,000 high-value British jobs and intellectual property, and create significant export opportunities. A 2014 report led by NNL forecast a potential global SMR market of 65–85GWe by 2035, valued at up to £400 billion; and a UK market of around 7GWe.

The UK government expressed support for domestic SMR development in the 2016 Budget, and is currently seeking to identify the best-value design for the UK through an open competition.

The 2016 Budget also included an allocation of at least £30 million for an SMR-enabling advanced manufacturing R&D programme to develop nuclear skills capacity.

RR SMR plant

Driving down production costs through innovative manufacturing techniques is the key to making SMRs economically viable. SMRs offer the nuclear industry the opportunity to become more like other high-value low-volume manufacturing sectors such as aerospace, where Rolls-Royce and the UK supply chain have proven expertise.

Manufacturing processes which could be exploited for SMRs include a range of machining techniques such as robotic machining, single-platform machining and cryogenic cooling, as well as supporting technologies such as intelligent fixturing and on-machine inspection. Advanced joining and near-net shape manufacturing processes such as electron beam welding, diode laser cladding, automated arc welding, bulk additive manufacturing and hot isostatic pressing also potentially offer significant savings in cost and lead time.

Many of these technologies are already being developed for civil nuclear applications by the Nuclear AMRC. The centre’s advanced machine tools and fabrication cells have been specified to work on representative-size parts for gigawatt-scale reactors, which means that they could also produce full-size prototypes for SMRs.

Rolls-Royce will also draw on the specialist expertise of other centres within the UK’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult, including the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry and the Advanced Forming Research Centre in Strathclyde.

Collaboration agreement with US Nuclear Infrastructure Council

The Nuclear AMRC has signed a new agreement with the US Nuclear Infrastructure Council (USNIC) to work together on research and development to support the UK civil nuclear programme.

The memorandum of understanding was signed by Jay Shaw, senior business development manager for the Nuclear AMRC, and David Blee, executive director of USNIC, during a visit to the Nuclear AMRC on 26 October.

USNIC signing

The agreement confirms that the two organisations will explore opportunities of mutual benefit in the UK civil nuclear programme, including work to support advanced technologies such as small modular reactors (SMRs), as well as the UK’s new build and decommissioning programmes.

The agreement was signed during a USNIC mission to the UK’s key nuclear organisations, aimed at enhancing dialogue between the US and UK industries on SMRs, advanced reactors and advanced manufacturing.

“Supporting this trade mission gave us an excellent opportunity to showcase the UK’s nuclear manufacturing research capabilities, and to share our experiences with our American colleagues,” says Mike Tynan, chief executive officer of the Nuclear AMRC. “Collaborating with USNIC will further develop our transatlantic relations and grow our scope for future knowledge sharing to better support the UK’s civil nuclear programme.”

“The Council is pleased to have tangible linkage with the Nuclear AMRC’s impressive innovation infrastructure complex and enterprising supply-chain initiatives,” says Blee. “There is much common ground on both sides of the Atlantic on small reactors deployment, and this agreement will buoy efforts to ensure that the manufacturing and supply-chain sectors rise to the challenge to ensure success in the UK market and globally.”

USNIC group

USNIC is the premier business consortium advocate for new nuclear energy and the promotion of the US supply chain.

During their mission to the UK, the USNIC delegation of nuclear industry executives also visited the National Nuclear Laboratory, Urenco’s Capenhurst facility, and the prospective SMR site at Trawsfynydd in North Wales; and took part in industry networking sessions in London and Manchester.

Single-platform breakthrough for tubesheet machining

Thousands of deep holes can be drilled through a 600mm tubesheet using a standard machining centre, Nuclear AMRC research has shown. The study could lead to significant savings in manufacturing cost and time for a range of heat exchanger tubesheets and support plates.

Typically measuring up to five metres in diameter with over 10,000 deep holes through 600mm of Inconel-clad steel, steam generator tubesheets represent the most demanding application in tubesheet drilling.

With a length-to-diameter ratio of over 30, these holes are challenging for standard drilling techniques, particularly given the number of holes that have to be produced with zero faults. These tubesheets are currently produced on a dedicated gun drilling machine, using a mineral oil lubricant that can present contamination risks to nuclear components, with a long cycle time which can cause bottlenecks.

A new generation of deep drilling tools could remove the need for a dedicated machine. “Lately, there’s been lots of progress in tooling design and materials,” says Miguel Garcia, senior research engineer in the Nuclear AMRC’s machining team. “Now, for the range of hole sizes we’re looking at for tubesheets, it is possible to drill them on a standard machine using soluble coolant.”

drilling test

In a project funded by the Nuclear AMRC research board of member companies, the machining team investigated whether these new drills could meet the demands of tubesheet manufacturers.

The team used the Starrag Heckert HEC1800, a large high-precision horizontal boring machine, to prove a selection of commercially available drills. Each was used to drill 600mm steel testpieces with Inconel end cladding. The researchers observed machine performance, chip formation and tool wear, then measured the accuracy of the holes with a 150mm CMM probe.

Although some of the tested tools could not successfully drill the full depth, the team identified a drill geometry and cutting parameters that produced deep holes of exceptional quality on a standard machine tool platform using off-the-shelf tooling.

Importantly, the holes were produced using a standard soluble coolant, allowing higher material removal rates. By saving minutes per hole, machining time for a full tubesheet can be cut by many days.

tubesheet cu

Single-platform machining of tubesheets will allow manufacturers to reduce costs and become more flexible. The technique could be particularly valuable to smaller businesses which will be able to produce a wide range of heat exchanger tubesheets and other components without investing in new machine tools.

“It adds a lot flexibility to the process, as you can do any other machining operation on the component in a single set-up – a dedicated machine will only drill,” Garcia notes. “You can reduce the risk of misalignment and the risks of moving the component across the factory, and you’re also reducing the footprint you need from multiple machines.”

Full results have been shared with members. Work continues to optimise the drilling process and reduce cycle time, and to improve robustness to meet industry standards. The team are also working with tool suppliers to test and develop new drill designs.

  • For more news on how the Nuclear AMRC is supporting industry through manufacturing R&D and supplier development, download our Q4 newsletter (4MB pdf).

Nuclear AMRC helping Westinghouse cut SMR costs and lead times

The Nuclear AMRC is continuing to work with Westinghouse Electric Company to reduce build lead times for the US group’s small modular reactor (SMR).

Nuclear AMRC engineers are working with Westinghouse and modular construction specialists from Cammell Laird on a new advanced manufacturing study. The study will explore potential design efficiencies which can reduce costs to customers while promoting growth in manufacturing within the UK.

“The Westinghouse SMR is an innovative, industry-leading technology that builds upon the company’s extensive reactor and fuel technology expertise,” said Jeff Benjamin, Westinghouse senior vice president for new plants and major projects. “The Nuclear AMRC has broad experience in design for the manufacture of large, complex parts for safety-critical applications, and its support will help to increase the efficiency of our design, while building on our specialised UK value proposition.”

Westinghouse SMR with logo

The study follows an initial advanced manufacturing study on the Westinghouse SMR reactor pressure vessel, one of the largest and most demanding parts of any reactor. That study, completed in April 2016, demonstrated that Westinghouse’s design had the potential to be efficiently manufactured in the UK.

The new study will focus on how the SMR design can allow for greater production efficiency through modular assembly techniques.

“Greater R&D focus on technologies surrounding SMR manufacture will reduce the risk, minimise the lead times, while significantly optimising cost and quality delivery performance,” said Mike Tynan, chief executive officer of the Nuclear AMRC. “Design for assembly is one such area of interest which has the potential to significantly reduce construction costs and time, by minimising the amount of labour required on site.”

Heavy engineering group Cammell Laird has also been engaged by Westinghouse to work on the study.

“Cammell Laird has over 40 years’ experience in the design, manufacture, assembly and transport of large complex modules to a number of safety-critical sectors,” said Jonathan Brown, managing director of the Merseyside-based group. “We are pleased to bring this knowledge to support the Nuclear AMRC in undertaking the nuclear module study for Westinghouse.”

Westinghouse says that the study further demonstrates its commitment to partnering with the UK government to deploy the company’s SMR technology, and move the UK from buyer to global provider of the latest nuclear energy technology. Westinghouse also proposes to manufacture fuel for its SMR at its Springfields site in Lancashire.

Nuclear AMRC awarded Athena Swan bronze

The Nuclear AMRC’s commitment to supporting women in engineering and research has been recognised with the Athena Swan bronze award.

The Athena Swan scheme recognises commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering and related fields at universities and research institutions. The bronze award recognises that an institution has a solid foundation for eliminating gender bias and developing an inclusive culture that values all staff.

“I’m absolutely delighted that the people of the Nuclear AMRC have been recognised through the Athena Swan bronze award for their dedication and commitment to providing a working environment that is free from gender bias, recognises the value of the individual, and promotes the unconditional trust and respect needed for true potential to be liberated,” says Mike Tynan, chief executive of the Nuclear AMRC.

“In a business dominated by technology, the Athena Swan bronze award is a prized possession that reminds us that our greatest asset is our people. To build a team that plays a lead role in the creation of a new era of civil nuclear power in the UK requires that talent is unleashed and is unfettered by prejudice and bias. This is the value of Athena Swan – it is a way of doing business rather than simply an award to be gained.”

Athena Swan team

The Athena Swan application was prepared over the past year by a team from all parts of the Nuclear AMRC, led by technology researcher Dr Kathryn Jackson.

“Equality is good for the nuclear industry, it’s good for the manufacturing research, and it’s good for engineering, which are all areas where women are under-represented and where we’re at the intersection,” Jackson says. “Our remit is to help UK industry win work in civil nuclear, and the nuclear industry has got a higher proportion of men than any other power generation sector, because it’s largely a legacy workforce. If we’re leading in manufacturing research, it makes sense we should be leading the cultural change as well.”

Athena Swan bronze awardThe Nuclear AMRC will now implement the action plan prepared for the application, with the aim of applying for the Athena Swan silver award by 2020. “We’ve highlighted everywhere we’re doing things well where we need to continue, and everywhere we need to do things better,” Jackson says. “There’s a lot of work to do and there’s no shortcutting as we have to demonstrate we have made significant improvements.”

“The bronze award acknowledges that we are on a journey to excellence,” Tynan adds. “My expectation is that Nuclear AMRC will continue to improve the opportunities for gender minorities in the nuclear industry and try to ensure that we access the extraordinary talent that exists in this country to deliver innovative and safe civil nuclear power for generations to come.”

 

100th UK manufacturer achieves Fit For Nuclear

Precision engineering group Paul Fabrications has become the 100th UK manufacturing company to prove its readiness for civil nuclear work through the Nuclear AMRC’s Fit For Nuclear programme.

Fit For Nuclear (F4N) is a unique service to help manufacturing companies test and develop their readiness to bid for work in the civil nuclear supply chain. F4N is delivered exclusively by the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Nuclear AMRC), part of the national High Value Manufacturing Catapult, and is supported by top-tier partners in nuclear new build and decommissioning.

Paul Fabrications – based in Castle Donington, near Derby, and part of the global AGC AeroComposites group – is the 100th company to complete the F4N programme by benchmarking its performance against the standards demanded by the civil nuclear industry’s top tiers, and driving business improvements through a tailored action plan.

Paul laser

Paul Fabrications has over 50 years’ experience in the civil nuclear sector, and currently specialises in manufacturing intricate components for the fuel assemblies used in the UK’s current fleet of advanced gas-cooled reactors (AGRs). With the AGR fleet approaching the end of its service life, the company is looking to replace this revenue stream and increase its offering to the wider nuclear industry.

“The pressure on us is to look for new work in the nuclear sector,” says Peter Tryner, nuclear operations manager at Paul Fabrications. “There’s a world of work to be had in the nuclear area that we have the capabilities on this site to do.”

F4N support has helped the company drive continuing improvements to its business processes, and understand the opportunities of the wider nuclear market including new build and decommissioning. F4N also gives Paul Fabrications an industry-recognised hallmark to demonstrate its readiness for nuclear work, and allows the firm to tap into the Nuclear AMRC’s collaborative network and sector expertise to help identify opportunities and build new relationships with potential clients.

“Fit For Nuclear has opened some doors for us which we have not really been privy to in the past,” says Wayne Exton, chief executive officer at AGC AeroComposites. “This is a relatively slow-moving industry compared to others, but we have been part of the nuclear sector for a long time, we want to be part of it, and we’re prepared to invest. Our knowledge is growing as we go through Fit For Nuclear, and I hope in the next two or three years we should start to see some new opportunities.”

Paul workshop

Martin Ride, lead nuclear specialist for the F4N programme, comments: “Paul Fabrications is a tremendous Fit For Nuclear company, with a clear understanding of what it really takes to work in nuclear. By building on its experience of working for a leading UK customer in the current nuclear fleet, the company has set a very high standard. With a dedicated and extremely well-organised and managed nuclear capability, I’m confident that the Paul Fabrications team are well placed to meet requirements for light-to-medium sized precision fabrication and high tolerance components across the nuclear industry.”

Since the programme’s launch in 2011, over 500 UK manufacturers have taken the initial F4N online assessment. Completing the programme requires commitment and drive from senior managers, and typically takes 12–18 months. Successful participants range from contract manufacturers with no nuclear experience aiming to take a first step into the sector, to established suppliers wanting to benchmark their position and drive business excellence.

“With the UK’s nuclear new build programme moving forwards with the go-ahead for Hinkley Point C, and the decommissioning programme offering around £1.5 billion of supply chain opportunities a year, there are huge opportunities for UK manufacturers in the nuclear sector,” says Martin Ride. “It’s a challenging market, but Fit For Nuclear gives you the support you need to understand the opportunities and challenges, develop your capabilities, and ultimately win work.”

  • The Nuclear AMRC is launching a new series of regional events to introduce even more UK manufacturers to the support available through Fit For Nuclear. The first events are on 20 October in South Yorkshire, and 1 November in the West Midlands. For full details, see the F4N nuclear strategy events page.

Slashing the cost of waste box manufacture

The Nuclear AMRC is working with Sellafield Ltd to slash the cost of making future designs of waste container boxes, potentially saving hundreds of millions of pounds in decommissioning costs.

The clean-up programme at Sellafield and the other sites managed by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) will need tens of thousands of special steel boxes over the next 30 years to safely store and dispose of hazardous waste. The current design is a standardised 3m3 stainless steel box which can be stacked for long-term storage.

Making these boxes using current manufacturing techniques is an expensive business, with each one costing tens of thousands of pounds to produce. Sellafield Ltd is driving a project to significantly reduce that cost, and tasked engineers at the Nuclear AMRC to help come up with solutions which could save the taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds over the lifetime of the programme.

“This is a challenging project requiring a fully multi-disciplinary approach, bringing together many areas of research, with the potential to deliver significant savings to industry,” says Stuart Dawson, Nuclear AMRC operations director. “With our world-leading capabilities and expertise, the Nuclear AMRC is uniquely positioned to address such complex manufacturing problems for demanding sectors like decommissioning.”

The research focuses on the two most promising routes for cost reduction identified by Sellafield Ltd – optimising and automating welding of the container; and producing the lid flanges by casting instead of machining.

In the first phase of research, Nuclear AMRC research engineers worked alongside a specialist welding engineer from Sellafield Ltd, Jade Leonard, to investigate new approaches including fully automated welding and inspection. The complex design of the boxes means that many joints are not easily accessible to current mechanical welding tools, so the team investigated small flexible welding heads that can fit into tight spaces and weld in several directions using a range of welding technologies.

The team are focusing on the highly corrosion-resistant duplex 2205 stainless steel, which can present significant challenges during manufacturing.

“We have to control the heat that’s applied during welding, because that can affect the metallurgy of the steel,” says Leonard. “Duplex has a 50:50 mix of ferritic and austenitic steel, and we need to be careful that we maintain that balance because that affects corrosion resistance.”

The team have completed initial trials with a range of arc and laser welding technologies, using equipment at the Nuclear AMRC and at specialist welding partners, and identified the most promising for further development. In the ongoing second phase, the welding team are using the chosen technologies to produce more complex representative testpieces.

Duplex steel’s high strength also makes components difficult to machine. High residual stresses in the material can lead to changes in geometry when it’s machined or welded.

“This stress relief is extremely difficult to prevent or to even predict accurately, meaning that the precise geometry of the box components is very difficult to control as they progress through the manufacturing process,” says Dave Stoddart, Nuclear AMRC technology lead for integrated manufacturing.

3m3 box robot

The Nuclear AMRC has installed a new robotic cell to develop automated inspection techniques which can ensure that boxes produced with new techniques meet specification. The six-axis robot arm carries a photogrammetry head, which rapidly builds up a detailed three-dimensional image of the box’s geometry. The automated cell then analyses this model and identifies any distortions or defects within minutes, rather than the days needed for inspection on a traditional coordinate measuring machine (CMM).

To investigate new casting techniques for the top flange, the Nuclear AMRC called on the specialist expertise of AMRC Castings – part of its sister centre, the University of Sheffield’s AMRC with Boeing.

The top flange, a large and complex hollow square with four corner lifting features, is currently produced by machining from a solid block, with most of the expensive high-grade alloy being cut away.

AMRC Castings investigated whether the complex shape could instead be cast as a single item. Using the centre’s Replicast ceramic mould technology, the team successfully cast two highly accurate, one-piece prototype frames. The frames have passed material and metallurgical testing, and exhibited a superior surface finish.

3m3 casting lift

“Using a near-net shape casting optimises metal use, saves a massive amount of work, and significantly reduces the task of inspecting the finished product to make sure it meets stringent nuclear standards,” says Richard Gould, commercial manager at AMRC Castings.

The Nuclear AMRC’s machining group will now investigate how the cast part can be finished to the final precise specifications, while maintaining geometrical accuracy and surface integrity.

The research is part-funded by the Civil Nuclear Sharing in Growth (CNSIG) programme, which aims to develop the UK manufacturing supply chain for civil nuclear with support from the Regional Growth Fund. The results will be shared with UK manufacturers which can produce the boxes to the required specifications.

Fit For Nuclear advisors hit the road

Five manufacturing experts have joined the Fit For Nuclear team to help even more UK companies get ready to win work in the civil nuclear sector.

Fit For Nuclear (F4N) is a unique service to help UK manufacturing companies get ready to bid for work in the civil nuclear supply chain, developed and delivered exclusively by the Nuclear AMRC.

Paul Cook, John Olver, John Coleman, Stephen Linley and Huw Jenkins have joined the Nuclear AMRC as dedicated F4N advisors. All have previously been involved with the F4N programme – Cook since the programme’s inception in 2011, and the others through the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), which has now been wound down.

F4N advisors

“We’ve all worked with manufacturing companies, and a lot of us have run our own businesses. We’ve been there and done it, and can empathise with companies,” says Linley. “We’ve all learned a lot about the nuclear industry through F4N, and can now use our skills to help more manufacturers succeed in nuclear.”

After intense training with the Nuclear AMRC’s lead supply chain consultant Martin Ride, the five are now hitting the road to identify and support manufacturers who could join the nuclear supply chain.

“We’ll be on site with clients, taking them through their journeys, and introducing them to what the nuclear industry expects from their potential suppliers,” says Coleman. “There’s a lot of really excellent companies out there still. Part of our role is uncovering those companies, and then helping them develop themselves for the nuclear industry.”

“F4N is not for everybody, but it is identifying where there’s excellence and capability that can be developed to make a real contribution to the supply chain,” notes Jenkins. “It’s about working with companies that really want to develop themselves.”

Hundreds of companies have already taken the F4N assessment over the past five years, with almost 100 completing their journey after driving business improvements through a tailored action plan. Participating companies range from contract manufacturers with no nuclear experience aiming to take a first step into the sector, to established suppliers wanting to benchmark their position and drive business excellence.

Many F4N companies have reported benefits across their business, not just in their nuclear operations. The new advisors agree that the lessons of F4N will prove particularly valuable to companies dealing with increased economic uncertainty following the vote to leave the EU.

“It’s all about working with the top end of the very best of British manufacturing.” says Olver. “It’s not quick and easy, it’s very rigorous, but the rewards for the long-term future are there to be had. If you do have to deal with difficult conditions, it can give you enough of an edge to help you win work.”

“What we want to do is support businesses to help them be more competitive in the market, which can only help,” Cook concludes. “Go online and take the plunge. If you want to be more competitive, take the F4N route.”

New European-Canadian research to explore additive repair for aerospace

Additive manufacturing experts at the Nuclear AMRC are leading international research into innovative repair technologies for the aerospace industry.

AMOS logo

The Amos project (Additive manufacturing optimisation and simulation platform for repairing and remanufacturing of aerospace components) is a collaboration between researchers and manufacturers in Europe and Canada, led by the University of Sheffield AMRC.

Amos will investigate a range of direct energy deposition techniques which combine welding tools with automated control to accurately deposit and melt metal powder or wire. Many of these techniques are already used in aerospace and other industries to build new parts to near-net shape.

The project will focus on additive technologies already being used by the partners, including the wire-feed gas tungsten arc process used in the Nuclear AMRC’s bulk additive cell. The team may also look at other additive techniques used at the Nuclear AMRC, such as powder diode laser.

bulk additive cell

Amos will investigate the use of these techniques to repair and remanufacture aerospace components such as turbine blades and landing gear. This could significantly reduce the time and cost of regular maintenance and repair for the aerospace industry, while reducing material waste and extending the life of expensive components.

“There’s a host of additive manufacturing technologies available to aerospace manufacturers, but they tend to be focused on new production rather than repairing damaged parts,” says Dr Rosemary Gault, European project coordinator at the University of Sheffield AMRC. “The Amos project is bringing together some of the world’s leading research organisations and companies to identify which additive technologies are best suited for repair and remanufacture, and develop them for commercial use.”

The Amos consortium includes nine partners from Canada, France, Sweden and the UK, including research organisations, top-tier aerospace manufacturers, and specialist technology developers.

“The research team is well balanced, consisting of industrial OEMs, repair providers and universities across the Atlantic,” says Professor Yaoyao Fiona Zhao of McGill University’s Additive Design and Manufacturing Lab. “The project will provide a fundamental understanding of thermal and mechanical behaviour of powder and wire material during deposition. It will also provide a simulation and optimisation platform for industrial partners to further develop their component-specific applications.”

Amos team

The project will research fundamental aspects of selected additive processes, including the material integrity of deposited metal, and the accuracy and limitations of the deposition process. The consortium will also investigate automated techniques to map damaged areas and calculate repair strategies, and look at how the near-net shape repairs can be effectively machined to a final seamless shape.

Amos will also investigate how additive repair techniques can be factored into the design of new components to optimise efficiency over their life cycle, and the qualification of innovative repair processes which don’t comply with current industry specifications.

“Additive manufacturing is a revolutionary technology, and one of GKN’s strategic priority technologies,” says Rebecka Brommesson, solid mechanics engineer at GKN Aerospace Engine Systems. “The large comparative study carried out in Amos will help us understand the pros and cons of the tested direct energy deposition systems. We want to investigate suitable repair and remanufacturing strategies as well as the qualification process required for repair and remanufacturing.”

The European partners are the University of Sheffield AMRC in the UK; Ecole Central de Nantes in France; GKN Aerospace Engine Systems, based in Sweden; and DPS, a French SME specialising in process simulation and optimisation.

Canadian partners are McGill University, Montreal; the University of Ottawa; jet engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney Canada; landing gear supplier Héroux-Devtek; and automated welding specialist Liburdi.

The project will involve a range of additive manufacturing technologies used at the participating centres and companies, including laser powder and robotic laser wire systems operated by Liburdi in Canada, a CNC laser powder facility at Ecole Centrale de Nantes in France, and robotic powder diode laser and wire-feed gas tungsten arc facilities at the Nuclear AMRC in the UK. Material research will focus on three widely used aerospace alloys: Ti6Al4V, Inconel 718, and 300M alloy steel.

The four-year, €2.6 million (C$3.8 million) project is supported by the European Commission through the Horizon 2020 programme and by Canadian funding agencies CARIC and NSERC. It is one of the first European-Canadian projects to be funded under the ‘Mobility for growth’ collaboration in aeronautics R&D.

For more information: amos-project.com

Nuclear AMRC study shows UK capable of Westinghouse SMR manufacture

The UK has the advanced manufacturing capabilities to effectively manufacture critical systems for a small modular reactor (SMR), according to a study by the Nuclear AMRC for Westinghouse Electric Company.

The study focused on the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) of Westinghouse’s SMR design. The RPV is one of the largest and most demanding parts of any reactor.

“The ability to locally source the steel, forge, machine and then assemble all of the Westinghouse Small Modular Reactor RPV is a significant finding and builds on our unique offering to the UK government,” said Jeff Benjamin, Westinghouse senior vice president for new plants and major projects. “We are confident that our innovative approach and ability to localise our supply chain and manufacturing in the UK further demonstrates our commitment to developing SMR technology in the UK.”

The Nuclear AMRC’s study builds on its extensive experience in design for manufacturing large complex parts for safety-critical nuclear applications, drawing on broad academic and industry knowledge. The manufacturing study determined that Westinghouse’s use of UK advanced manufacturing techniques offers a potential 50 per cent reduction in delivery lead times and offers substantial cost savings to SMR manufacturing.

WEC Marshall Tynan

“The results of this manufacturing study demonstrate the important role that Nuclear AMRC can play in identifying efficiencies within the advanced manufacturing process to significantly reduce capital costs and drive project savings, whilst also highlighting key opportunities for the UK supply chain which can only benefit the UK economy,” said Mike Tynan, chief executive officer of the Nuclear AMRC.

The Nuclear AMRC study provided a professional, independent assessment of Westinghouse’s RPV design, and identified how advanced manufacturing processes can be deployed to significantly reduce capital costs.

Westinghouse’s existing UK footprint supports the Nuclear AMRC’s findings on localisation and advanced manufacturing. The company’s Springfields facility near Preston is a strategic national asset employing more than 1,000 people, and allows for SMR fuel to be manufactured locally, something no other SMR technology provider currently offers.

In March, the UK government launched a competition to identify the best-value SMR design for the country. The first phase aims to gauge market interest among technology developers, utilities and other stakeholders in developing, commercialising and financing SMRs in the UK. The government is also investing at least £30 million for an SMR-enabling advanced manufacturing R&D programme to develop nuclear skills capacity.

Westinghouse SMR vessel