With engineering group Babcock, the University of Strathclyde is to lead an industrial partnership worth £4.2 million for making nuclear assets safer and more reliable.
Nuclear assets are valuable, mission-critical – especially in naval applications – but also difficult and potentially dangerous, by their very nature. The programme will develop advanced inspection techniques, biotechnology solutions for infrastructure repair, operational intelligence and data science and new products and processes for managing nuclear facilities and extending their lifetime.
It forms part of a £138 million investment in research-business partnerships announced by the UK Government and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
The partners, the funding and the aims
For the Strathclyde-led project, EPSRC is providing £2.1 million of funding for the five-year programme, with university and industrial partners providing a total of £2.3 million. As well as Babcock, the project also involves EDF Energy, Kinectrics Inc, Bruce Power, The Weir Group, BAM Nuttall, Imperial College London, the University of Surrey, Cranfield University and the Alan Turing Institute.
“This Prosperity Partnership will establish an internationally signifi cant research programme to increase capability and multidisciplinary expertise, focused on enhanced through-life nuclear asset management,” said Professor Stephen McArthur, Deputy Associate Principal at Strathclyde, who is leading the research.
Professor McArthur explained that the project is very clearly aligned with the industrial partners’ common strategic aims of safe, reliable, and efficient delivery of output; nuclear waste monitoring and disposal; mitigation of operational risk and creation of new, stronger nuclear products and processes. “This programme is important as it allows fundamental advances in inspection technology, biotechnology and data science to drive enhanced operation of existing and future nuclear assets,” he said. “Through the partnership, novel scientific and technical advances will be translated into products and solutions, delivering growth and operational efficiencies for industry.”
Through the Prosperity Partnership, the university and industrial partners aim to enhance industry’s ability to maintain successfully existing nuclear power stations and naval assets, and deliver the next generation of these assets in a sustainable and economically feasible manner.
The industrial view
“This partnership is a really important part not just of our future, but for the university’s research centre and the combined efforts of the ANRC (Advanced Nuclear Reactor Centre) which is based at Strathclyde,” said Jon Hall, Babcock’s Managing Director of Technology. Babcock International Group, a world-leading engineering services company, delivers complex and critical projects both in the UK and overseas. “The outputs of this partnership have so many potential outcomes – boosting economic growth, finding new ways to prolong the life of our nuclear plants and facilities, and so on.”
The project’s outcomes are expected to help maintain existing nuclear and naval facilities and ensure lifetime performance improvements for the next generations. It has three themes: Advanced Through-Life Inspection Solutions; Biotechnology for Treatment and Repair of Concrete Nuclear Infrastructure; and Operational Intelligence that will build on the need for through life understanding of plant and equipment behaviour.
Strathclyde is also sharing in an EPSRC investment of £60 million for 33 universities to advance their Impact Acceleration Accounts (IAA). These allow institutions the flexibility to operate tailored schemes that help increase the likelihood of impact from their research. The IAAs speed up the contribution that scientists make towards new innovation, successful businesses and the economic returns that benefit the UK.
Casting a wider net
Strathclyde’s IAA, which was opened in 2012, aims to make a permanent improvement in delivering impact from the University’s research by engaging businesses and organisations in the development of the research, with the aim of addressing global challenges.