New projects tackle challenges of large-scale manufacturing

The Nuclear AMRC is leading two new R&D projects to address fundamental challenges in nuclear manufacturing.

The Inform and Simple projects, backed by government funding of almost £2.5 million, will investigate two contrasting approaches to producing large-scale nuclear components. Inform aims to improve the process of moving large parts between multiple machines, while Simple aims to do more operations on a single platform.

Professor Steve Jones, chief technology officer of the Nuclear AMRC, says: “Simple and Inform are based on the two different philosophies of manufacturing large high-value components – taking the part to the machine, and taking the machine to the part. Both projects aim to provide significant improvements to UK productivity, potentially cutting manufacturing time and cost by half for a variety of large nuclear components.

“By developing innovative approaches to the fundamental challenges of manufacturing, these projects will help the UK’s nuclear supply chain to compete globally. These technologies could also provide major benefits to other high-value manufacturing sectors, such as offshore renewables or oil & gas.”

The Inform project (intelligent fixtures for optimised and radical manufacture) will develop an adaptive fixturing system to ease the movement of large parts around a factory, and ensure precision throughout forging, machining, welding, inspection and assembly.

The project will develop a through-life fixture which can hold large components while they undergo a range of operations, and facilitate movement between tools. With sensors linked to actuators and manipulators, the fixture will automatically adjust its grip to minimise distortion during movement and manufacturing.

The fixturing technology will be demonstrated on large cylindrical parts representing a two-thirds scale replica of a mid-range reactor pressure vessel.

The Nuclear AMRC is leading the project, backed by around £1.1 million project funding, with partners include fixturing specialist MetLase, Sheffield Forgemasters, Cambridge Vacuum Engineering, NPL and TWI.

The funding will support collaborative R&D over 20 months, and follows an initial three-month feasibility study by the Nuclear AMRC. Ultimately, the project aims to cut cost and time for manufacturing large complex nuclear components on a series of dedicated platforms by at least 50 per cent.

Moving more efficiently between platforms isn’t the only answer to the challenges of large-scale manufacturing, however.

Simple platform concept

The second project, Simple (single manufacturing platform environment), aims to integrate a range of manufacturing operations onto a single machining platform. Supported by £1.35 million project funding, the Nuclear AMRC will lead a research consortium including two of its sister centres within the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, the Advanced Forming Research Centre and AMRC with Boeing, as well as the University of Sheffield physics department, TWI and Peak NDT.

In the first phase, the partners will develop an integrated welding and monitoring system which combines a range of sensors and testing tools with an automated arc welding head. This will allow automated in-process inspection of welds, improving quality and reducing the risk of weld failure leading to costly scrapping or rework.

Further development could then integrate this tool with a comprehensive selection of machining, cladding and inspection heads on a single large manufacturing platform. By combining conventional and advanced techniques onto a single platform, the project aims to achieve cost and time savings of at least 50 per cent for a range of complex fabrications.

Simple will focus on large components measuring at least two metres such as pressure vessel sections, large valve casings and decommissioning waste containers.

The Simple and Inform projects are funded by the Department for Business, Energy & Industry Strategy (BEIS) through the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) managed by Innovate UK.

Both projects are supported by a range of nuclear industry partners – including reactor developers and operators, and decommissioning site owners – who will ensure the research is addressing industry challenges. The results will be shared with UK industry, including the Fit For Nuclear network of companies from along the supply chain.

Either of the two approaches may prove more beneficial for different components, and elements from both projects could be combined for specific applications to maximise productivity.

Demand model to match nuclear manufacturers with work

The Nuclear AMRC and Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) are working together to map future contract opportunities in the nuclear market, and help match manufacturers with relevant work packages.

The Nuclear AMRC has secured funding from Innovate UK, through the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, to create a robust model of future demand for UK nuclear manufacturing. The model will help manufacturers identify work packages which they can bid for, and allow R&D and support to be focused on areas of the greatest value to the UK supply chain.

The demand model will build on work carried out by NIA industrial advisors Glen Little and Chris Savage over the past year to create an initial database of future contract opportunities across the nuclear sector, including new build, decommissioning and naval.

“Our work to build a picture of the demand profile for new nuclear plants and detailed work packages was a necessary first step to understanding what future opportunities will look like for the UK’s supply chain,” says Savage.

“The next stage will be to match these against the capabilities of UK companies, so we can identify where the opportunities are for the UK and to design targeted interventions where required.”

The initial project will focus on particular commodity requirements for a representative new build project. The modelling methodology can then be extended to cover the full range of commodities and components for the new build programme, as well as the requirements of the decommissioning and submarine programmes.

“The demand model will give us visibility of the supply chain opportunities for the next 20 to 30 years, which will allow us to match the best suppliers to those opportunities,” says Helen Arthur, supply chain development programme manager at the Nuclear AMRC. “It will provide a long-term view of the schedule for the major nuclear programmes, and make sure that suppliers are ready to bid for work packages when they go out to tender.”

The work could also provide valuable information to inform government about where strategic interventions from Whitehall can help address capability gaps in the UK’s nuclear supply chain.

The NIA has also joined the Nuclear AMRC as a tier one member. The two organisations will work closely together to share knowledge on the nuclear industry, focusing on demand modelling and other initiatives that will benefit the whole UK supply chain.

virtual demand model

Virtual demand modelling

The Nuclear AMRC’s visualisation specialists are combining demand model data with a virtual model of a complete reactor system, to create an interactive and intuitive tool for supply chain development.

The prototype system (pictured above) combines a generic reactor design with historic market information about which UK manufacturers have the capabilities to produce each component. The detailed 3D virtual model allows the reactor to be broken down into its sections, components and commodity types, and identifies suppliers capable of producing each system.

Research engineer Craig Hamer says the vision is to integrate the visualisation tool with real reactor designs, live data of supply chain capability and capacity, and the demand model data being developed in collaboration with the NIA. That will give developers, suppliers and other stakeholders an intuitive, interactive tool for understanding specifications, identifying potential supply chain partners, and showcasing domestic involvement in new build projects.

The prototype system has been demonstrated at industry events including a High Value Manufacturing Catapult reception at the House of Commons.

Supercritical benefits for deep hole drilling

Nuclear AMRC machining engineers have completed their first cutting trials using a new supercritical carbon dioxide coolant system.

The innovative system has been fitted on the large Starrag HEC1800 horizontal boring machine, and delivers supercritical CO2 at pressures of over 100 bar.

A supercritical fluid combines the physical properties of both a liquid and a gas. Many substances can become supercritical at a sufficiently high temperature and pressure – for CO2, supercritical conditions are above 74 bar and 31°C.

“A supercritical fluid doesn’t have distinct gas and liquid phases,” says Dr Krystian Wika, Nuclear AMRC technology lead for advanced coolants. “The advantage for machining is that the coolant has the density of a liquid, so it can carry out the swarf from really deep holes, but it also behaves like a gas.”

scCO2 breakthrough

The supercritical CO2 technology was developed at the University of Michigan and is exclusively licenced to Fusion Coolant Systems, which is supplying the Nuclear AMRC’s new equipment. The technology has been shown to increase cutting speeds and reduce tool wear, compared to traditional oil-based coolants and minimum quantity lubricant (MQL) techniques.

For the nuclear sector, supercritical CO2 can potentially be used for deep-hole drilling operations which are essential for components such as heat exchanger tube plates.

Wika’s team will initially focus on small diameter drilling, where the wear mechanism of the tool edge and effects on the workpiece’s material properties are not well understood for supercritical CO2. During initial trials, the coolant will be delivered through the spindle at a pressure of around 120 bar and temperature of 34°C. Further research will then optimise the parameters for specific applications.

scCO2 monitor

Deploying the Fusion system on the large Starrag platform will also let the team develop CO2 cooling techniques for large component turning. This can avoid problems which occur when liquid coolants collect within a large part and affect its centre of mass.

The HEC 1800 is now equipped with a choice of coolant options including high pressure fluid and supercritical CO2 with or without MQL. Supercritical CO2 is an excellent solvent, Wika notes, which allows a perfect mix of MQL and CO2 for the most demanding applications.

Supercritical CO2 coolant is different to the near-cryogenic coolants which Wika’s team have previously investigated. Cryogenic research at the centre has focused on the ChilAire technology, which delivers a controlled stream of carbon dioxide gas and CO2 ice particles at temperatures as low as –78°C. The team are now investigating how that technology can be made more flexible so that it can be easily deployed on any machining platform.

Professor Steve Jones appointed CTO

Renowned welding expert Professor Steve Jones has joined the Nuclear AMRC as its new chief technology officer (CTO).

Professor Jones joins from Coventry University, where he held the post of professor in manufacturing systems and processes at the Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Institute. He previously worked at Rolls-Royce as global engineering specialist for joining sciences, where he worked closely with the company’s civil nuclear division to secure the ASME N-stamp qualification, and worked with the Nuclear AMRC as visiting professor of welding engineering.

As CTO, Professor Jones is responsible for ensuring that the Nuclear AMRC is focused on providing innovative technical solutions that will give the UK supply chain a competitive advantage in the global nuclear market.

“The CTO is a fundamental position in the organisation, and Steve will be a great addition to the centre and the team,” says Nuclear AMRC chief executive officer Andrew Storer. “I am really pleased to welcome Steve, who will be responsible for ensuring our technical strategy is directly linked to the market, to make sure we are delivering the right applied research for UK industry.

Steve Jones ebw

Professor Jones will lead the development of the technology strategy at the Nuclear AMRC, ensuring that the centre is delivering truly advanced manufacturing methods to the nuclear industry. A fundamental part of this is to make sure that the centre is meeting the current needs of the supply chain to improve productivity and reduce manufacturing risk in machining and fabrication.

“Our sector is understandably very conservative, so introducing new technologies that challenge existing codes and practices requires extremely strong de-risking procedures reinforced by substantial data to justify their inception,” Professor Jones says.

“I believe there are still significant benefits to be realised through optimising current practices and competences. This will accelerate performance and improve capability, without the need for a step change in skills and unnecessary costs.”

Jones started his manufacturing career in 1980 as an apprentice welder with Rolls-Royce Motors in Shrewsbury. He studied for 17 years with the Open University while working in industry, achieving his doctorate in materials and welding engineering in 2003.

“Combining engineering practicality with long-term academic training allows me to describe myself as a ‘pracademic’ – a word I am cautious about using in potentially tongue-tied situations, but a credential that I hope will add to the already highly proficient skills set at the Nuclear AMRC,” he says.

Professor Jones is a Chartered Engineer and Fellow of The Welding Institute. He succeeds Stuart Dawson as CTO, who has moved to the same position at the Nuclear AMRC’s sister centre, the AMRC with Boeing.

Storer appointed chief executive

Andrew Storer has been appointed chief executive officer of the Nuclear AMRC, after two years as managing director.

He succeeds Mike Tynan, who has now retired after four years leading the centre and 42 years in the nuclear industry. Below, Storer introduces his vision for the centre.

Andrew Storer

I have been at the Nuclear AMRC since October 2015, but I’ve been involved since the beginning. I was programme director for Rolls-Royce’s civil nuclear business, and we needed somewhere to develop manufacturing techniques to help deliver potential contracts.

Back in 2012/13, the centre was dominated by one customer responsible for 85 per cent of work. Those early years were about creating the physical assets and starting to think seriously about supply chain support.

Since then, Mike Tynan has spent a lot of time and effort getting the Nuclear AMRC into the fabric of the nuclear industry. Within the past year, we have diversified the customer base so we are no longer dominated by any one company, while increasing overall revenue. We have opened a new centre in Birkenhead for modules and local supply chain support. We are really well engaged with Sellafield, and see this as a great relationship for the future.

We still have a lot more to do. More than ever, the UK nuclear industry needs to work as one, building on the good things across the sector and not just re-inventing everything in silos. Consolidating procurement plans across the sector would help us all understand volumes, stimulate UK investment, and leverage economies of scale. Research needs to be targeted at today’s scope of work as well as future needs, to help companies make things at lower cost and with greater repeatability while meeting quality demands.

This efficiency needs to be fed back to the consumer – nuclear is competing with other energy sources and we can’t take anything for granted. We must start by showing that we can deliver current programmes in new build, decommissioning and submarines, and keep generating 21 per cent of the UK’s electricity at EDF’s 15 operational reactors.

To support this cross-sector approach, we are working with the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) to develop a sector deal as part of the new industrial strategy. This is one of five initial deals proposed by the secretary of state, Greg Clark, and was presented at the Nuclear Industry Council (NIC) in July. This is a once-in-a-generation chance to positively change our sector, with some real game-changing topics which were all agreed as sensible areas for development.

The new energy minister, Richard Harrington, and his team are now working with NIC members to develop the details for presentation to Clark later this year. We hope this will trigger new approaches for current and future technology development and intellectual property in the UK.

So what does all this mean for Nuclear AMRC? We are now in the performing phase of the centre’s life. We intend to deliver more in-depth supply chain development, providing very specific support to companies against real opportunities. This will link back to our facilities in Rotherham and Birkenhead, providing more tangible disruptive manufacturing research based on industry pull as well as innovation push. We also plan to develop bases in the UK’s key nuclear regions, providing localised support to reduce the burden on the supply chain.

There’s nothing in our name to say we only work with metal – we intend to develop our research into electrical controls and instrumentation, which make up a large part of the value of a reactor plant and which fall within UK scope.

We recognise that qualification of equipment is a vital part of UK companies winning work, and are working very closely with the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) to provide additional support for this and other areas. And of course, we will develop our work on modules, which we see as fundamental to reducing cost, and which we are just starting to address at our new facility.

We have lots to do at the Nuclear AMRC and, as the new chief executive, it really does excite me. I look forward to continuing to work with everyone here at the centre and all our members, partners and friends in the nuclear industry.

Nuclear AMRC opens new modular manufacturing R&D centre in Birkenhead

The Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre has opened its new modular manufacturing R&D centre, at the Birkenhead site of member company Cammell Laird.

The launch marks the start of a research collaboration led by Cammell Laird to develop modular manufacturing techniques to support the UK’s nuclear new build programme.

The Nuclear AMRC, part of the UK’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult, works with UK manufacturers of all sizes to help them win work in the nuclear power sector. Its research factory on the Advanced Manufacturing Park in South Yorkshire is home to over £30 million worth of state-of-the-art machining, welding and inspection facilities, all of which are available for companies to use in collaborative R&D projects.

The new facility expands the Nuclear AMRC’s capabilities into modular manufacturing. Modular manufacturing involves the off-site assembly of large-scale complex systems, which are then transported to site for final installation.

Modular techniques are already widely used in shipbuilding, aerospace and other safety-critical industries. In the nuclear sector, they can significantly reduce construction risk and help deliver new power stations to schedule and cost.

The Nuclear AMRC Birkenhead facility was officially opened on Tuesday 4 July, with a launch event attended by around 50 industry delegates.

Birkenhead Brown Lester Elsy Storer

The event featured presentations from (L-R) Jonathan Brown, managing director for energy at Cammell Laird; Craig Lester, executive director for nuclear strategy at BEIS; Dick Elsy, chief executive officer for the High Value Manufacturing Catapult; and Andrew Storer, managing director of the Nuclear AMRC.

With over 1,000m2 of workshop space, the new facility will host specialised machining, joining and assembly equipment to develop and prove modular manufacturing techniques for nuclear applications. Work will address modular manufacturing for new reactors of all sizes, as well as the challenges of decommissioning and waste management.

Andrew Storer, managing director of the Nuclear AMRC, said: “Our new Birkenhead facility extends our capabilities into an area of huge interest and importance to the nuclear industry. Modularisation reduces risk in manufacturing and construction, and will help developers build new power stations on schedule and on budget, meeting our national targets for secure, cost-effective, low-carbon electricity generation.

“The manufacturing techniques we will develop at the new facility can also help improve production efficiency and costs in other parts of the nuclear market, for example in the manufacture of large numbers of standardised waste boxes for the decommissioning programme.

“Our Birkenhead facility is the first of a new network of regional supply chain hubs, which will help us provide on-the-ground support to companies of all sizes across the UK. Birkenhead is ideally placed for the established nuclear cluster in North West England as well as the Wylfa new build site in North Wales. We want to help companies based in this region to become Fit For Nuclear and win work in the nuclear sector at home and worldwide.”

Cammell Laird aerial

The Nuclear AMRC Birkenhead facility is hosted by Cammell Laird, which joined the Nuclear AMRC as a tier one member earlier this year. Cammell Laird’s 120-acre site on the Mersey features four dry docks, a non-tidal wet basin, a large modular construction hall and extensive covered workshops. The company has been involved with the UK’s nuclear sector for a number of years, and is positioning itself as a world-leading hub of modular manufacturing expertise.

Cammell Laird is now leading a new research project with funding from the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) through the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI).

The project, called Fit For Modules, aims to develop the UK supply chain into a world-leading provider of modular manufacturing techniques for nuclear and other high-value energy sectors. The research consortium – including the Nuclear AMRC, Laing O’Rourke, Arup and Frazer-Nash Consultancy – will work with industry and regulators to map the challenges and opportunities of modularisation.

Jonathan Brown, managing director of Cammell Laird’s energy division, said: “Modularisation is widely applied on shipbuilding, civil construction and a number of other sectors where it is demonstrated to bring significant benefits in terms of cost reductions and improved schedule performance. We are confident that when applied correctly within the nuclear sector we will see similar benefits.”

The first stage of the project will produce a detailed study showing how the development of modular techniques can support the UK’s nuclear new build programme, and identifying what research and investment are needed to turn the UK into the world leader in off-site modular construction for the nuclear industry.

Immediately after the launch event, Cammell Laird hosted a two-day industry workshop to discuss modularisation challenges associated with process and methods, technologies and techniques, and people and culture. The project will also consider financial and supply chain issues around modularisation.

At the end of the first year-long phase, the consortium will publish a technology roadmap detailing how the required technologies and capabilities can be developed over the next five years. The report will be shared with industry, including the 120+ manufacturers who have completed the Nuclear AMRC’s Fit For Nuclear (F4N) supplier development programme.

EQ Alliance to tackle equipment qualification challenges

The Nuclear AMRC is working with a new alliance of Rolls-Royce, Lloyd’s Register, Assystem and Arexis to support the UK’s nuclear new build programme through equipment qualification.

Equipment qualification (EQ) is a systematic approach to ensuring that safety-critical components and systems being manufactured for new nuclear power stations meet the relevant quality standards.

The new EQ Alliance will produce a detailed report on EQ requirements for the UK new build programme, and examine the UK’s current capability to meet those requirements. The report, due in spring 2018, will provide vital strategic guidance to help ensure that UK manufacturers are ready to meet nuclear customer requirements, reducing the risks of new build while maximising the opportunities for the UK supply chain.

“UK suppliers aiming to win work in nuclear new build need to understand the requirements for qualifying safety-classified equipment,” says Andrew Storer, Nuclear AMRC managing director. “This can be a barrier to winning work in the nuclear sector, but is often overlooked.

“By developing the UK’s capabilities for equipment qualification, the EQ Alliance can help UK manufacturers win work. We can also help the UK become a recognised global centre for equipment qualification for the nuclear sector, providing new export potential. With four different reactor technologies being developed in the UK, helping UK suppliers understand the differences and identify common areas could provide significant efficiencies for new build projects worldwide.”

 

 

EQ Alliance news

The alliance will work closely with the Nuclear AMRC and industry stakeholders during the development phase.

Mark Tipping, offshore technology manager at Lloyd’s Register commented: “We are delighted to be working with our partners to ensure successful delivery of this EQ project for the Nuclear AMRC and, by extension, the UK’s ambitious nuclear build programme.

“EQ is an essential element in demonstrating that a nuclear power plant can be operated safely. It is a regulatory requirement which must be satisfied in order to obtain a licence to operate.”

“Ensuring a robust and agile EQ framework is in place will deliver significant technical and commercial benefits to the UK’s new build programme.” says Chris Tierney from Rolls-Royce. “We have partnered with some of the foremost companies in the industry to ensure the strongest combination of EQ expertise and the highest standards of delivery for the Nuclear AMRC.”

“The EQ Alliance will be leading the industry in the development and delivery of efficient methodologies to support the growing supply chain, and to provide clarity of EQ requirements to the extensive nuclear new build programmes across the UK,” says Bryn Thomas, head of strategic campaigns for Assystem. “We are committed to helping the new build developers in the UK learn from the experiences of other global nuclear developments”.

Raphael Schirrer, chief executive officer at Arexis, says: “The approach of the EQ Alliance brings a unique accumulated pool of EQ expertise with highly skilled resources from all consortium members.”

Over the next 12 months, the EQ Alliance will investigate the UK’s capabilities to meet and manage the EQ requirements of the various technologies being developed for the UK’s nuclear new build programme, and help the Nuclear AMRC make recommendations for intervention.

Cammell Laird announces new partnership with Nuclear AMRC

Cammell Laird and the Nuclear AMRC have announced a new partnership which will support the Merseyside engineering company’s campaign to position itself as a world-leading nuclear industry hub.

The partnership was announced at a meeting of the Nuclear Industry Association’s new build group, held at Cammell Laird for an audience of over 100 nuclear industry executives.

The new partnership will see the opening of a Nuclear AMRC facility within Cammell Laird’s Birkenhead site. The new centre will provide a base for the Nuclear AMRC in the North West, and be used to develop and industrialise technology and knowhow to service the nuclear industry.

Jonathan Brown, managing director of Cammell Laird’s energy division, said: “We are hugely excited to announce this new venture with the Nuclear AMRC, which will also see Cammell Laird become a Tier One member of the Nuclear AMRC. The development centre will thrust Cammell Laird forward as the leading UK industrial manufacturer developing expertise in off-site module build in partnership with the High Value Manufacturing Catapult.

Cammell Laird aerial

“We are looking to research a wide range of areas supporting the assembly, commissioning and transportation of modules of up to 5000 tonnes, where Cammell Laird benefits from its coastal location,” Brown added. “Working with the Nuclear AMRC, we will invest in our facilities and our skilled workforce and supply chain to meet the demands of modular new build. Looking forward, we will also target the export market through a strategy built on working with partners and countries around the world, focused on the exploitation of the benefits of modular construction.”

Andrew Storer, managing director of the Nuclear AMRC, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Cammell Laird to the Nuclear AMRC network. Our new facility in Birkenhead will focus on developing modular manufacturing methods for new reactors of all sizes, drawing on Cammell Laird’s expertise in modular shipbuilding and a host of innovative technologies to significantly reduce costs and lead times for nuclear new build. It also gives us a base in the North West, the core region for the UK’s nuclear industry, allowing us to work more closely with the regional supply chain and the development sites in Cumbria and North Wales.

“The Nuclear AMRC is dedicated to helping UK manufacturers win work in the nuclear sector, and expanding our research capabilities to tackle the challenges of advanced modular build will deliver real benefits to the UK supply chain. We look forward to working with Cammell Laird and other module manufacturers to develop new technical capabilities and help them compete globally on cost, quality and delivery.”

Cammell Laird Jonathan Brown

Working with the Nuclear AMRC will strengthen Cammell Laird’s unique and highly competitive package of engineering services, Brown added: “Cammell Laird offers reliable, cost effective and flexible solutions to multi billion pound industries crying out for experienced support. Cammell Laird has shown, in the maritime industry, it can be that anchor of system engineering, managing quality and providing schedule certainty. It takes responsibility for complex build projects such as the £150 million Sir David Attenborough polar ship delivering the engineering, manufacture, skills development and quality records.

“Working with the Nuclear AMRC we further develop our modular expertise, drawing on its formidable nuclear and wider academic expertise through its links with the University of Sheffield and the University of Manchester to make Cammell Laird’s offering even more compelling.”

Cammell Laird is one of the most famous names in British industry with roots tracing back to the early 19th century. Its 120-acre site on the river Mersey features four dry docks, a non-tidal wet basin, large modular construction hall and extensive covered workshops. Cammell Laird has been increasing its involvement in the UK’s nuclear sector for several years, and has collaborated with Nuclear AMRC members Nuvia and Ansaldo NES on modular manufacture for the civil nuclear sector.

Nuclear AMRC and EIC to work together to help UK companies

The Nuclear AMRC has signed a new agreement with the Energy Industries Council (EIC) to work together to promote global opportunities in the nuclear industry and help UK companies enter the sector.

EIC chief executive Stuart Broadley and Nuclear AMRC chief executive Mike Tynan signed the memorandum of understanding (MOU) at an EIC conference hosted by the Nuclear AMRC on Tuesday 7 March.

EIC Nuclear AMRC

The MOU recognises the vital and complementary roles played by the two organisations and confirms that they will work together to ensure that UK suppliers already involved in the nuclear industry and those looking to enter the sector are supported.

As part of the agreement, the EIC and Nuclear AMRC will collaborate to produce events which showcase opportunities in the nuclear industry in the UK and around the world, with a strong emphasis on exporting UK capabilities.

The two organisations will also share the use of their state-of-the-art facilities for the benefit of EIC members, which are UK supply chain companies providing goods and services across the energy industries.

Both organisation will also share their knowledge and expertise to further develop the EIC’s world-leading project tracking database, EICDataStream, as well as to produce EIC nuclear sector reports which will enable EIC members to identify opportunities and plan their business development in this sector.

Commenting at the signing, EIC CEO Stuart Broadley said: “Mike Tynan and I both recognise the enormous potential that exists for our two organisations to work closely together to expand UK expertise into the global nuclear sector. I’m delighted to sign this MOU, which will help to formalise that recognition into a series of specific areas where our complementary skills, experience and knowledge can be brought together to work more effectively.”

Mike Tynan added: “We’re very excited to work with the EIC to help their members win work in the civil nuclear sector. Companies with established experience in the wider energy sector are ideally placed to succeed in the nuclear supply chain, and we’re here to help manufacturers develop their capabilities to meet the specific requirements of nuclear new build, operations and decommissioning.”

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.