UK launches SMR competition

The UK government has launched a competition to identify the best-value small modular reactor design for the country.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) released full details of the competition’s first phase, following confirmation in the 2016 Budget of the government’s interest in building one of the world’s first SMRs in the UK.

budget2016

The competition will consider designs which can generate up to 300MW of electricity. The first phase aims to gauge market interest among technology developers, utilities, potential investors and funders in developing, commercialising and financing SMRs in the UK.

To qualify, SMR designs must be able to achieve in-factory production of modular components or systems amounting to a minimum of 40 per cent of the total plant cost. This will present significant opportunities to exploit advanced manufacturing technologies to reduce cost and project risk.

DECC emphasises that SMRs should be seen as a potential complement to the UK’s current large-scale nuclear new build programme. The department will publish an SMR roadmap in the autumn, which will summarise the evidence so far, set out the policy framework, and assess the potential for SMR development in the UK.

The Budget also included an allocation of at least £30 million for an SMR-enabling advanced manufacturing R&D programme to develop nuclear skills capacity. “This will create opportunities for the North’s centres of excellence in nuclear research, such as the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and the Sir Henry Royce Institute,” the statement noted.

Mike Tynan, chief executive of the Nuclear AMRC, commented: “Chancellor George Osborne has already demonstrated a commitment to small modular nuclear reactors and it’s good to see the continued momentum with this technology as part of a balanced energy portfolio for the UK.

“The new nuclear build projects at Hinkley Point in Somerset, Wylfa in North Wales, and Moorside in West Cumbria have not yet received final investment decisions from their respective owners. If current studies indicate that they are economic and affordable, small modular reactors could be a potential supplement to the existing projects and could play a vital role in the UK energy market.

“The development of a UK small modular reactor would provide us with the opportunity to build on the UK’s proud heritage in the civil nuclear industry and to harness our world leading capability in advanced manufacturing. Small modular reactors could put UK technology development on the fast track and position UK manufacturers for valuable research partnerships and create a strong likelihood of securing volume export business. We would be making real progress to securing our energy future and make a real contribution to a sustainable low carbon economy in the UK.”

The Nuclear AMRC is already working with a number of SMR developers which have expressed an interest in working with the UK government. In November 2014, the centre signed an agreement with NuScale to work together on the development of the US group’s Power Module design. The Nuclear AMRC is also currently working with Westinghouse to explore the most effective way to manufacture reactor pressure vessels for Westinghouse’s SMR in the UK.

 

Manufacturers hail F4N impact

A survey of participating manufacturers has shown the impact the Fit For Nuclear programme is having in the UK supply chain.

Seventy per cent of respondents say they have increased confidence in entering the nuclear market, and half say they already have a better understanding of buyer requirements. As one respondent put it: “It has helped to remove the fear of the nuclear industry.”

Fit For Nuclear (F4N) was launched five years ago by the Nuclear AMRC and industry partners to help manufacturers prepare to bid for work in the civil nuclear supply chain. F4N is a unique service which lets companies measure their operations against the standards required to supply the nuclear industry, and provides structured support to help companies close any gaps.

Over 250 companies which had reached the ‘on-site review’ stage in their F4N journey by January 2016 were invited to complete the survey, with more than half responding. The survey was carried out by the Manufacturing Advisory Service, which has worked with the Nuclear AMRC on an enhanced F4N programme over the past 18 months.

“It’s very encouraging to read the overwhelmingly positive comments from companies at all stages of their F4N journey,” says Mike Tynan, chief executive officer of the Nuclear AMRC.

“The response shows that UK manufacturers are certainly keen to get involved with the nuclear sector, have the capabilities to compete, and are prepared to take the steps necessary to meet the industry’s justifiably stringent quality requirements – but many are still crying out for focused support and guidance to help them better understand the specific opportunities and requirements of the market.

“Supplier development programmes such as F4N provide focus and improvement planning for participating organisations, and the benefit of this work – as demonstrated in the results of this survey – should not be underestimated.”

The current enhanced phase of the F4N programme, supported by the Regional Growth Fund, comes to an end in June. Over the past year, F4N has offered match funding worth an average of £10,000 to help companies put business and manufacturing improvement projects into action. More than 110 projects have been funded, with participating companies reporting that the funding will help create over £48 million of added value in their businesses and over 550 jobs.

Download the full impact survey report.

F4N survey cover

Quotes from manufacturers about F4N:

  • “A fabulous experience which has moved our business immeasurably beyond any other programme we have undertaken.” – Craig Naylor, NTR Ltd.
  • “There are massive opportunities for many British based companies – but training and awareness of such opportunities is critical. F4N is ideally placed to provide this.” – Phil Harmer, Al-Met Ltd.
  • “Excellent programme – even if we unable to gain entry into the nuclear sector, the benefits to the company of working through the action plan and training will improve the running of the company in all areas.” – Chris Steele, WKW Precision Engineering.
  • “It has helped to remove the fear of the nuclear industry.” – Kevin Wheeler, WES Ltd.

The economic case for SMRs

In his autumn statement and spending review, chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne announced new funding to develop small modular reactors in the UK. Mike Tynan, Nuclear AMRC chief executive, explores the economic case for SMRs.

NuScale plant

There’s been a lot of talk about small modular reactors (SMRs) recently. Proponents say that SMRs present the UK with the opportunity to regain a global lead in reactor technology, while meeting the country’s need for affordable and secure low-carbon electricity.

But why would a small nuclear reactor be any more efficient or economic to build and operate than a reactor 10 or 20 times its size? The answer is that it’s not necessarily more efficient – however, it is much more affordable.

The global reactor vendors have focused on developing and building very large output nuclear reactors. Each has its own branded technology – Areva’s EPR, Westinghouse’s AP1000 and GE’s ESBWR – all varieties of light water reactor generating between 1100 and 1700 megawatt. The premise is the bigger the better, particularly for markets like the UK where nuclear forms part of baseload generation.

The case for economies of scale was partly based on a high initial capital cost followed by 60 years of low operating costs, providing excellent revenue streams with good return on a safe investment. Reality for the large reactors has not proved so simple. Initial capital costs are significantly higher than originally expected, and the cost of financing such a multi-billion pound investment can be prohibitive. This severely impacts the business model for large units – witness the difficulties in attracting investors for Hinkley Point C.

To compare electricity prices between technologies, we need to calculate a levelised cost of electricity (LCOE). The current wholesale price of electricity in the UK is around £45 per megawatt hour, while the agreed price for electricity from the planned new nuclear station at Hinkley Point C is £92.50/MWh. This price is driven, in large part, by the expense of financing the project. Many have argued that this strike price is too expensive, and it is higher than originally expected. However, it is in line with the estimated full cost of new gas generation by 2025 – £85-95/MWh, according to the UK’s independent Committee on Climate Change.

SMR developers claim that their LCOE could be in the region of current electricity market prices, thanks largely to the much lower capital cost. Realistically, I expect that cost to be in the region of £60-75/MWh, but anything lower will be a real bonus. In an assessment of SMRs led by the National Nuclear Laboratory and published in December 2014, the best estimate was in excess of £80/MWh – not hugely different from the strike price for the EPR at Hinkley Point.

So what would make SMRs more affordable than the gigawatt-scale reactors? It all comes down to how we make them. Because SMRs will be built in relatively high volumes in factory conditions, there are a number of very practical steps that would significantly reduce their capital cost. These include modular construction of the reactor unit; modularisation of concrete infrastructure; design for manufacturing; and the use of advanced production processes such as electron beam welding and hot isostatic pressing.

Significantly reducing SMR production costs is eminently achievable – but it’s no less important to ensure a strong route to market at home and abroad, and a UK supply chain that delivers high-value sustainable jobs in the long term. To achieve the best economic value for the UK, technology vendors will need to create UK entities that deliver indigenous intellectual property. It is this issue, rather than the technology itself, that will stir UK government and industry into action on SMRs.

The Nuclear AMRC is working with the principal SMR technology vendors in support of their drive for a UK SMR. We have the technology, expertise and experience to de-risk SMR programmes, support design for manufacturing, develop innovative solutions for SMR manufacture and deliver high-value complex components, large and small. We are also working with the UK civil nuclear supply chain to ensure that UK suppliers can deliver competitive products and services for SMR technology vendors.

Chinese investor confirms Hinkley Point support

Chinese investors have confirmed details of their support for EDF Energy’s proposed new nuclear power stations.

HPC

China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) will invest £6 billion for a 33.5 per cent stake in the Hinkley Point C project.

EDF retains the remaining 66.5 per cent of the project. The French group said it intends to bring other investors into the project, but will retain a majority stake.

The strategic investment agreement was signed in the presence of Chinese president Xi Jinping and UK prime minister David Cameron.

Andrew Storer, managing director of the Nuclear AMRC, commented: “This is great news for the nuclear industry. We need Hinkley Point to move forwards to help kickstart the UK’s new build programme across a range of potential developers and technologies. This announcement is a really important step in the process of launching the Hinkley Point project, and a fantastic achievement for the EDF team.

“The new build programme will create a great stimulus and help secure skills and capability across our industry, not just in new build.

“It’s been a long time coming, but the supply chain has been using the time to get ready for Hinkley Point and the other potential projects. We now need to see a final investment decision that enables further contracts to be placed, and the work we’ve been doing with the supply chain to be put into action.”

The Nuclear AMRC works with UK manufacturers along the supply chain to help them become more competitive, including focused supplier development support through the Fit For Nuclear and Civil Nuclear Sharing in Growth programmes. Over 60 per cent of the Hinkley Point project value will be spent in the UK, EDF says.

EDF proposes to build two Areva EPRs at Hinkley Point, with the first planned to be operational in 2025. EDF chairman Jean-Bernard Lévy said the group was “planning for a final investment decision within weeks”.

The strategic investment agreement also paves the way for CGN to take a 20 per cent stake of EDF’s proposed development of two EPRs at Sizewell, and 66.5 per cent of a new collaborative project to develop two Chinese HPR1000 Hualong reactors at Bradwell, Essex.

EDF and CGN have worked together for around 30 years, and are currently collaborating on two EPRs at Taishan, China.

£100m Hinkley Point contracts for Rolls-Royce

EDF Energy has announced another two preferred bidder contracts for major work packages at the proposed new Hinkley Point C reactor.

baffle cage intRolls-Royce is set to supply heat exchangers to be used at Hinkley Point C in a contract worth over £25 million.

The Nuclear AMRC has worked with Rolls-Royce to significantly reduce the time and cost of manufacturing complex heat exchanger sub-assemblies as part of the Civil Nuclear Sharing in Growth programme, with support from the Regional Growth Fund.

And a partnership between Rolls-Royce and Nuvia has been selected as the preferred bidder for a contract worth over £75 million to design, procure, install and commission two systems for the treatment and waste processing of reactor coolant at Hinkley Point C.

Jonathan Brown, president for new build and nuclear projects at Rolls-Royce said: “We are delighted to be selected by EDF Energy for these important contracts. Rolls-Royce is committed to delivering a high value added design, manufacturing and systems capability for the UK new build programme.”

The announcement was welcomed by Mike Tynan, chief executive of the Nuclear AMRC: “This is excellent news for Rolls-Royce, one of our principal industrial partners, and also for the many UK manufacturers in its supply chain. We have worked closely with Rolls-Royce to develop innovative advanced manufacturing solutions for nuclear systems including heat exchangers, and we will continue to support the company and its suppliers to make sure that UK manufacturers can secure the maximum value from investment in nuclear new build.”

The Nuclear AMRC is part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, the national network of R&D centres supported by Innovate UK, for which Rolls-Royce is a key industrial partner.

HPC from seaIn July, EDF announced preferred bidders for Hinkley Point C contracts worth over £1.5 billion. EDF now estimates that more than 60 per cent of the construction cost for Hinkley Point C will be placed with UK firms. Any contract signings are subject to a final investment decision.

Vincent de Rivaz, EDF Energy chief executive, said: “Hinkley Point C offers the UK a tremendous opportunity to boost employment and skills in the crucial manufacturing and construction sectors, as well as leading the revitalisation of the new nuclear programme.

“Together with suppliers and our partners we have created a supply chain ready to build Hinkley Point C, which will help the UK meet its future need for reliable low carbon electricity.”

The announcement came days after the UK government confirmed a £2 billion financing guarantee for Hinkley Point C, which de Rivaz called a clear sign of the government’s commitment to Hinkley Point C.

“The government’s determination to bring about a renewal of infrastructure and to attract inward investment to the UK are demonstrated by this good news,” de Rivaz said. “It is further progress towards a final investment decision on a project which will provide reliable, affordable low carbon electricity for decades. We welcome the government’s support for the industrial participation by EDF and its Chinese partners.”

To find out more about supplying the Hinkley Point C project:

Preferred suppliers named for Hinkley Point C

HPC from seaEDF Energy has announced preferred bidders for major work packages at its proposed new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point.

The combined contracts are worth over £1.3 billion, with around 60 per cent of value going to UK companies. The preferred suppliers are named ahead of EDF’s final investment decision (FID) on the project.

Top-tier suppliers include:

  • Balfour Beatty Bailey (joint venture of Balfour Beatty and NG Bailey, both UK) – electrical cabling and equipment installation.
  • Cavendish Boccard Nuclear (joint venture of Cavendish Nuclear, UK, and Boccard, France) – mechanical pipework and equipment installation.
  • Actan (joint venture of Doosan Babcock, UK, and Axima Concept and Tunzini Nucleaire, France) – heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

These three joint ventures form the so-called FID7 alongside the previously announced Alstom (turbine hall), Areva (nuclear steam supply system), Bylor (civil works) and Costain (marine works). EDF Energy has been encouraging UK manufacturers to consider partnerships with French companies in its established supply chain.

Other newly named preferred bidders, all based in the UK, are:

  • Weir – large pumps for cooling water.
  • Clyde Union – main pumps for feedwater system and cooling water system.
  • ABB UK – power transmission.
  • Laing O’Rourke – construction of workers’ campus accommodation.
  • Premier Interlink WACO UK Ltd – construction of temporary buildings.

Project management contracts have been signed with the following UK companies:

  • KBR – project management of site operations and equipment contract management.
  • Jacobs – project management of building and civil work.
  • Gleeds – contract management services.
  • Faithful+Gould – contract management services.
  • Turner and Townsend – project controls and project management.
  • Mace – contract management services.

The major supply chain partner companies will let sub-contracts for manufacturing work, potentially allowing many more firms to benefit from the project.

EDF Energy chief executive Vincent de Rivaz said: “Hinkley Point C will be at the forefront of the revitalisation of the UK’s industrial and skills base, and we have worked hard to build a robust supply chain to support new nuclear in the UK.

“The project will boost industrial stamina in the UK and kick-start the new nuclear programme. Experience gained at Hinkley Point will help firms be successful in nuclear projects around the world.”

EDF says that all parties are working so that a final investment decision can be taken at Hinkley Point C as soon as possible.

To find out more about supplying the Hinkley Point C project:

 

 

 

Knowing the nuclear market

Supply chains in the civil nuclear sector can be complex and demanding things. For manufacturers who want to win work in the multi-billion pound sector, it’s vital to understand where your company can fit and who will be purchasing your products.

VR turbines midMartin Ride, purchasing and supply chain specialist at the Nuclear AMRC, is urging companies which can potentially win work in civil nuclear to make the effort to understand where they can sit in the market.

“As with any other industry sector, there are nuances and cultures along with expectations and standards,” Ride says. “Nuclear sector buyers want to know that potential suppliers do understand the market and have done their homework.”

The top tier of buyers in nuclear new build and decommissioning will generally operate their supply chain and opportunity management in line with specific and well-defined strategies. “These can be project or product-based, leading to specific categories or component-type groupings,” Ride notes. “Strategies will vary from buyer to buyer, and can often have links to wider, potentially, globalised strategies.”

These buyer strategies will often be based around framework agreements. This is common in the UK decommissioning market, where site licence companies such as Sellafield Ltd place major packages of work with key contractors. For example, Sellafield recently announced a £20 million contract with Tata Steel for the provision of high-integrity containers and doors.

Ride explains: “Framework agreements will be openly and commercially tendered, with successful organisations being either recognised key brand names or collaboration-based consortiums. For the majority of manufacturers seeking to pursue opportunities, the route to market will very often be through the framework-winning companies.”

In the new build sector, EDF Energy is taking a similar approach. EDF is appointing seven prime contractors for Hinkley Point C, and has already named Alstom, Areva, Bylor and Costain ahead of its final investment decision (FID). Each one of these so-called FID7 will have its own purchasing and procurement strategy. And while EDF Energy is working with the Nuclear AMRC to identify potential suppliers, most manufacturers will work for one of the FID7 or their sub-contractors.

The other developers planning new reactors in the UK, Horizon Nuclear Power and NuGeneration, are expected to use a similar model.

“Your specific capabilities and interest will affect at what level your routes to market will be, and therefore who you actually need to be engaging with,” Ride emphasises. “Understanding the market will require you to take the time to map the specific area of interest, starting from the prime customer level to get to the levels where opportunities will arise from. This will really help you to develop your own specific engagement strategy, which may actually prove to be quite different from your first expectation.”

The Nuclear AMRC’s team of sector specialists can work with UK manufacturers to find their place in the civil nuclear supply chain, and help them get ready to meet buyer requirements.

F4N statThe Fit For Nuclear (F4N) programme has been developed in collaboration with the industry’s top tier to help companies measure their capabilities against sector standards and drive improvements to close any gaps.

F4N is managed by the Nuclear AMRC with support from the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), part of the government-backed Business Growth Service.

F4N offers a journey of business improvement which can help manufacturers refine their nuclear strategy, implement new processes, secure additional qualifications, and match their capabilities to specific supply opportunities.

“Our experienced supply chain and business professionals will be able to give you a much clearer view in terms of how buyer organisations work and how best to plan to engage with them,” Ride says. “When it comes to having to pre-qualify for work, then suppliers with a firm understanding of the market will be better placed to respond, increase selection and tendering opportunities, and ultimately win work. Fit For Nuclear is the first step on that journey.”

To find out more about the support and funding available through the Fit For Nuclear programme, contact MAS advisors on 0207 728 3028 or email fitfornuclear@mymas.org.

Metalcraft shares in growth

Stainless Metalcraft, a long-established manufacturer of large vessels and components for the most demanding applications, is aiming to more than triple its turnover with support from the Nuclear AMRC.

Metalcraft weldingMetalcraft joined the Nuclear AMRC’s Civil Nuclear Sharing in Growth (CNSIG) programme in late 2013. CNSIG aims to develop the UK manufacturing supply chain for civil nuclear, and includes high-intensity support for 10 key suppliers. The programme is part-funded by government through the Regional Growth Fund, and supported by industry leaders including Rolls-Royce.

The start of Metalcraft’s CNSIG journey coincided with the arrival of new managing director Austen Adams. “CNSIG was a perfect fit for me when I arrived,” Adams says. “While we had a great platform to work from, we needed to realign the business to meet the modern-day needs of the industry. For me, being part of CNSIG has been like having a team of helpers to facilitate that.”

Adams has set the company a target of growing its turnover from the current £14 million to £50 million within five years. Winning new nuclear business – in new build, operations and decommissioning – will be key to growth.

Metalcraft has been active in nuclear for decades, producing vessels, tanks and other components for civil nuclear sites across the UK. It currently has supplier certification from Sellafield Ltd, Areva and Rolls-Royce.

In decommissioning, Metalcraft is the only UK supplier of remelter crucibles for Sellafield. These vessels are used in the vitrification plant to mix active waste with glass at over 1000°C – a typically demanding application for Metalcraft, which sees significant opportunities in other decommissioning projects.

In nuclear new build, Metalcraft is looking to build on its extensive experience in producing stainless and carbon steel pressure vessels. And in operations, the firm’s sister company, Walsall-based Maloney Metalcraft, has a legacy of systems installed in EDF Energy’s fleet of gas-cooled reactors.

Metalcraft MD Austen AdamsThe company is also keeping an eye on opportunities in next generation technologies. “One of the core strengths of this business is our prototyping ability – we can get involved at a very early stage of development with new technology,” Adams says. “Small modular and pebble-bed reactors are exactly the kind of project that would really hit our sweet spot.”

To help achieve his ambitions, Adams led the restructuring of Metalcraft into three business units with distinct value streams. All three are now benefiting from CNSIG training and support.

The largest unit is Product Solutions, which focuses on volume work. The team has received targeted training in areas such as business improvement techniques and management, and has applied the learning to the shopfloor through a process improvement project involving a particularly challenging component.

The team has also carried out machining trials at the Nuclear AMRC’s facility in Sheffield to remove a problem with tool breakage. “The guys who went to Sheffield have made that standard practice – we’ve used the expertise in Sheffield to make real improvements,” says manufacturing manager Joe Mercuri.

The second business unit, Project Solutions, focuses on large high-integrity projects including the Sellafield crucible work. The CNSIG training has been fantastically beneficial, says business unit manager Kelvin Boyce. “We’re now doing programme management training, honing the business into the shape it needs to be for the value streams,” he says. “It’s a long process, because people have to change their responsibilities and skills sets, but it’s working well for us.”

The third and smallest unit, Proactive Solutions, focuses on short-track projects. Manager David Middlemass says that the CNSIG training has helped him get to grips with the specific requirements of the nuclear industry. “There’s definitely a sense of nuclear culture,” he says. “We’ve learned a lot about how much effort has to be put into everything.”

The target of £50 million turnover – with nuclear likely to be around 30 per cent of the total – is perfectly achievable if nuclear contracts do get placed, notes Adams.

“A year ago, we made the decision to invest in CNSIG and we’ve absolutely thrown our heart and soul into it,” he says. “We have invested an enormous amount of management time and energy, with demonstrable benefits already. We’re looking forward to the next two years as we get this embedded and start focusing on revenue growth.”

Update, 11 May: Metalcraft has announced a new contract, worth up to £47 million, to produce 3m3 waste storage boxes for Sellafield Ltd.

The first phase of the contract, worth up to £8 million, will see Metalcraft deveop a new production facility capable of producing over 1,000 boxes over the next 10 years.

“This is a landmark contract for the business and we’re genuinely excited by the potential it offers,” said Adams. “Since joining the Civil Nuclear Sharing in Growth programme just over 12 months ago, the team has invested a huge amount of time and effort to develop their understanding of the decommissioning process, honing the skills and processes required among the team, and this contract is just reward for all their hard work.”

Westinghouse AP1000 enters GDA closeout

Westinghouse Electric Company has announced that its AP1000 reactor has entered the final closeout phase of the regulatory generic design assessment (GDA).

The GDA process is managed by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and Environment Agency. It is intended to support the construction of a number of new nuclear power stations by approving a standard reactor design which can be built in different locations by different developers.

news AP1000The regulators granted interim approval to the AP1000 in December 2011, but Westinghouse suspended final closeout until the reactor was selected for a UK new build project. That happened last year when NuGen confirmed plans to build three AP1000s at its Moorside site in West Cumbria, with the first unit online in 2024.

“The decision by the ONR and EA to advance the AP1000 plant review to the closeout phase is a very positive development for the Moorside project,” said Jeff Benjamin, Westinghouse senior vice president for new plants and major projects. “We’ve cleared an important hurdle in our efforts to bring a new generation of safe, clean, reliable electricity to serve the UK’s energy needs.”

Mike Tynan, chief executive of the Nuclear AMRC, said the announcement is good news for UK manufacturers.

“The beginning of the close out of GDA for the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor is welcome news and is yet another positive step for the new nuclear power station proposed by NuGen for Moorside in West Cumbria,” Tynan said. “Completion of GDA is a requirement before a site licence can be granted, and this affirmative action by Westinghouse signals an intent to progress the scheme on a timeline for first generation in the mid 2020s. Potential suppliers to AP1000 need to ensure that they are registered with Westinghouse and staying connected to Nuclear AMRC for support to the Moorside project and to the AP1000 reactor.”

During the GDA closeout, Westinghouse will provide regulators with detailed technical information to address the remaining open issues in their assessment of the AP1000 plant design. Westinghouse is targeting completion in January 2017.

Eight AP1000s are currently under construction in the US and China, with an agreement signed last year for another in Bulgaria. Westinghouse says that additional units are also being considered by customers in other markets worldwide.

NuGen is a joint venture between Westinghouse’s parent group Toshiba and GDF Suez.

F4N launches £1.5 million funding call

A £1.5 million support boost has been unveiled to help English manufacturers enter or expand their presence in the growing nuclear sector.

F4N target newsFit For Nuclear (F4N) is offering grants of around £10,000 to manufacturers in England that want to meet industry standards and compete for work in civil nuclear. F4N was developed by the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Nuclear AMRC) and is delivered in partnership with the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), now part of the Business Growth Service. The expanded programme including funding is supported by the Regional Growth Fund.

More than 5000 SMEs are needed to supply goods and services to the UK’s £60 billion civil nuclear new build programme and the continuing multi-billion pound decommissioning programme.

“Smaller manufacturers have a vital role to play in civil nuclear, if they can meet the standards demanded by the industry’s top tier,” said Mike Tynan, chief executive of the Nuclear AMRC.

“To win work, UK companies need to make sure they have the ability to meet safety, quality and cost standards, and can demonstrate that their specialist capabilities can deliver value to clients.

“We created Fit For Nuclear to help manufacturers close any gaps in performance, and this new funding will provide vital support for anyone taking the next steps and getting ready to compete for nuclear opportunities.”

The new F4N funding will allow management teams to drive business improvements in areas such as improved manufacturing processes, factory layout, bid writing, training plans and strategy.

Manufacturers can also apply for F4N funding to support R&D projects to optimise production or develop new processes and products, and can also access the Nuclear AMRC’s world-leading workshop capabilities in machining, welding, metrology and design support.

All projects must be completed by 31 March 2016, with firms urged to apply as soon as possible to secure a share of the funding.

“Almost 200 businesses have already embarked on Fit For Nuclear and more than 75 per cent of these have recorded immediate tangible bottom-line benefits,” explained Steven Barr, head of MAS.

“This is just the start and the current funding call will look to accelerate the number of companies getting involved. Nuclear is seen as a difficult sector to break into. Yes, requirements are different, but it’s not as problematic as some people make out.”

“F4N can take you throughout the entire journey, from the online capability check and on-site assessment, through to the generation of an action plan and a 50 per cent grant towards improvement or R&D projects.

“We’ve successfully worked with manufacturers involved in aerospace, automotive, electronics, marine and general fabrication, taking their core expertise and making them applicable to nuclear.”

The UK is leading the way in researching the challenges and opportunities posed by decommissioning, currently working on 17 sites dating back as far as the 1940s.

Going forward, the industry has outlined plans to construct around 16GW of new nuclear power stations in the UK by 2030, equating to a potential investment of £60 billion.

Backed by top tier partners including Areva and EDF Energy, Fit For Nuclear will give manufacturers a clearer understanding of supplier expectations, performance benchmarks, clarity on routes to market, and access to the unique manufacturing R&D capabilities of the Nuclear AMRC in Sheffield.

Barr continued: “Any English manufacturer employing 10 or more people and boasting over £1.6 million sales can apply to the new funding call.

“All they need to do is get in touch and one of our assessors will guide them on the application and a quick decision will be made to ensure companies have the best possible chance of taking advantage of the £60 billion-plus opportunity.”