Above: The Nuclear AMRC is expanding support for UK Manufacturers seeking to win work in the sector
With the UK’s nuclear new build programme finally getting underway at Hinkley Point C, and growing interest in a new generation of advanced modular reactors, the Nuclear AMRC is expanding its support for UK manufacturers who want to win work in the sector.
he Nuclear AMRC’s research factory on South Yorkshire’s Advanced Manufacturing Park is now home to over £30 million worth of production-scale machining platforms, welding cells and other state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment – all available to manufacturers who want to enhance their technical capabilities to win work in nuclear and other demanding industries. The Nuclear AMRC is unique among the HVM Catapult centres in its focus on large-scale quality-critical manufacturing, and many of its facilities are the largest available for collaborative R&D anywhere in the world.
The 120-strong Nuclear AMRC team work with companies of all sizes to solve their manufacturing problems and investigate new techniques and capabilities. The centre is also working with key partners on major long-term projects to improve manufacturing efficiency and reduce risk for nuclear new build and decommissioning.
Nuclear AMRC engineers are working with Sellafield Ltd and its suppliers to improve manufacturing methods for the standard 3m3 waste container, using advanced techniques in machining, electron beam welding, casting and inspection. The centre is also starting a four-year collaboration with US Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to produce a two-thirds scale reactor pressure vessel using a range of processes including electron beam welding, diode laser cladding and advanced machining. Thanks to funding from Innovate UK, the team are exploring technologies such as modularisation, single-platform manufacturing, intelligent fixturing for high-precision fabrications, and laser cutting for decommissioning.
They’re also leading work in European-funded projects to tackle challenges in additive manufacture and repair, intelligent robotics, reducing the risk of stress corrosion cracking, and modular manufacturing of advanced reactors. Modular manufacture is increasingly important to the nuclear industry, as it is key to the delivery of a new generation of advanced reactors of all sizes. In 2017, the Nuclear AMRC opened its new research facility in Birkenhead to focus on modular manufacturing techniques for the nuclear sector.
The centre is also expanding its capabilities in equipment qualification (EQ), a systematic approach to ensuring that safety-critical components for new nuclear power stations meet quality standards. The Nuclear AMRC is working with industry partners to ensure that UK manufacturers are ready to meet EQ requirements, reducing the risks of new build while maximising the opportunities for the UK supply chain.
Supply chain development is a critical issue for the nuclear industry, and the Nuclear AMRC is playing a key role in ensuring that UK suppliers can compete in a global market. The centre works with individual companies to help them meet and exceed nuclear buyer requirements, and is working with the global reactor developers to build a UK supply chain for their specific needs.
The centre’s flagship Fit For Nuclear (F4N) programme has become an industry benchmark for nuclear-ready manufacturers. More than 130 companies have been granted F4N status following a rigorous assessment and business improvement process. Recently granted companies range from specialist heat exchanger manufacturer Heatric, part of the global Meggitt group; to Barrnon, a tiny Cumbrian firm moving from fishing into nuclear decommissioning.
“Modular manufacture… is key to the delivery of a new generation of advanced reactors of all sizes”
The Nuclear AMRC has also delivered a significant boost to key suppliers through the Civil Nuclear Sharing in Growth (CNSIG) programme. CNSIG provided a four-year programme of intensive business development to an initial 10 companies, supported by £1 million match-funding each from the Regional Growth Fund. To June 2017 (with six months of the programme still to run), the participating companies have reported that CNSIG has helped them secure around £455 million of orders, creating or safeguarding 5,440 jobs, and have committed an additional £49.2 million private investment.
The Nuclear AMRC continues to enhance and expand its supply chain development programme to meet industry demand. F4N now offers additional targeted support to companies after granting, and the team are now applying the knowledge they gained through CNSIG to develop new services and add more value to UK industry.
“[Nuclear AMRC’s] Fit For Nuclear programme has become an industry benchmark for nuclear ready manufacturers”
Uniquely, the Nuclear AMRC offers an integrated package of supplier development and manufacturing innovation, helping UK manufacturers of all sizes raise quality, reduce costs, develop new technical capabilities, and meet the demands of the nuclear sector. 2018 will bring additional R&D capabilities, including the UK’s most powerful disk laser facility; new regional hubs, to help the centre work more closely with regional supply chains at key nuclear sites around the country; and more support for manufacturers in areas such as electrical control and instrumentation.
This is a crucial time for the UK nuclear industry, and the Nuclear AMRC is ready to help manufacturers along the supply chain to compete and win.