Disk laser opens for R&D

The Nuclear AMRC’s powerful new disk laser cell is now open for collaborative R&D into high-performance welding techniques.

disk laser cell

The centre’s power beam team have completed the first welding trials, following a four-month installation of the cell.

The cell is designed to produce high-quality deep penetration joins, from around 15mm in stainless steel, over lengths of a metre or more. It features a 16kW Trumpf disk laser, the most powerful of its kind in the UK.

The laser head is carried by a six-axis gantry over a two-axis manipulator table which can carry components up to 15 tonnes, all contained in a safety enclosure measuring 10 by seven metres and eight metres height. The cell has been designed and built by Loughborough-based Cyan Tec Systems, a specialist in integrating robotic and laser systems for industrial applications.

disk laser prep

The Nuclear AMRC team will initially use the cell to investigate the viability of using the laser to weld seams on large intermediate-level waste containers for the nuclear decommissioning sector.

Laser welding promises to significantly reduce manufacturing times and costs while maintaining a high quality of weld seams. Thanks to a strictly localised high-energy input and high travel speeds of 10 metres per minute or more, the laser produces a much lower heat input than most other welding technologies, significantly reducing thermal stress and distortion.

The cell can deliver a simultaneous MIG weld for hybrid welding, which can offer a better fit-up tolerance than laser alone with less heat distortion than arc alone. The technique is used in the shipbuilding industry to join steel plates.

With further development, the cell could also be used to investigate laser cutting techniques for decommissioning.

The team now want to talk to manufacturers who are interested in developing laser welding processes for their own production, or who want to investigate innovative applications of the technology.

Industry views wanted on new UK research hubs

The Nuclear AMRC is seeking views from manufacturers on new regional R&D hubs to provides additional support in key areas of nuclear technology.

The Nuclear AMRC has launched the consultation to gauge demand from companies working in the nuclear industry and other advanced manufacturing sectors.

The consultation seeks views on what additional capabilities will deliver the most value to industry. Proposed technical areas include advanced construction techniques, equipment qualification, testing, and innovative electrical control and instrumentation (C&I) technologies.

consultation map

“The development of new advanced capabilities is an opportunity to bring high value opportunities such as C&I to the forefront of research and innovation in the UK, alongside initiatives such as modular construction and equipment qualification,” says Andrew Storer, chief executive officer of the Nuclear AMRC.

“We have already opened our R&D centre for modularisation technologies in Birkenhead, and are keen to explore what other important areas require intervention. New R&D capabilities will help reduce costs and lead time for the nuclear industry and other industries which can benefit from research in this area.”

The UK has a solid base of academic and industrial experience in many areas of technology, but a limited amount of nuclear-specific research. New build reactor vendors typically carry out research in their home country.

Increasing the UK’s C&I research capability, for example, would help the domestic supply chain move from legacy analogue systems used in existing plant, to the digital and wireless technologies systems used in new reactor designs. That would enable the UK to compete for more C&I work in operations, decommissioning, new build and future reactor development, and reduce project costs.

The consultation will seek views from the nuclear industry, academia, regional authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), as well as cross-sectoral input from other high-value industries such as construction, rail, aerospace, automotive and marine.

The Nuclear AMRC is now contacting its members and other companies it is supporting through its manufacturing innovation and supply chain development work, including manufacturers taking part in the Fit For Nuclear programme. The centre also welcomes input from any other interested company or stakeholder.


Rolls-Royce and Nuclear AMRC to build UK SMR module

Rolls-Royce has awarded a contract to the Nuclear AMRC to develop a module demonstrator for the UK SMR.

The demonstrator will develop an understanding of modules and underpin early-stage design principles which will help deliver cost and programme certainty for the manufacture, construction and through-life operation of its UK SMR power plants.

“Modular design is central to our UK SMR power station, not only for the reactor components but for the construction of the entire plant,” says Matt Blake, chief engineer for the UK SMR at Rolls-Royce. “The UK SMR uses road-transportable modules that are completed in factories and transported for direct plug-and-play installation on site, allowing a fleet of reactors to be built and operated with much greater levels of cost certainty and operational efficiency.”

RR SMR truck

Johnny Stephenson, Nuclear AMRC business development manager, said: “This is a fantastic project for our new modular manufacturing research facility in Birkenhead, where we are developing and evaluating a range of modularisation techniques which could be used to build a new fleet of SMRs. We will work with the UK SMR consortium to explore both physical and digital aspects of modularisation, using technologies that have the potential to deliver significant savings in the manufacture, assembly and operation of SMR power stations.”

Rolls-Royce is leading a consortium of British companies to design a small modular reactor power station to deliver low cost, low carbon energy to help the UK meet its carbon commitments. The Rolls-Royce-led UK SMR could produce reliable energy for as low as £60 per megawatt hour – competitive against wind and solar – and through its innovative approach to modular construction, can avoid the complexities, delays and overspends often associated with large infrastructure projects.

World Nuclear Exhibition

26–28 June 2018, Paris.

A major event for key players in the global nuclear energy sector, with 10,000 visitors and 4,000 businesses expected over three days. The WNE covers all aspects of the nuclear industry from new build and construction, through operations and maintenance to decommissioning.

With the full support of the French nuclear industry and including all the major international reactor vendors, the WNE represents a key event for companies looking to win work in the UK or international nuclear market. It is also a great opportunity to connect with companies in the French nuclear industry, including key players in the EDF/Framatome supply chain.

For full details: www.world-nuclear-exhibition.com


The Energy Industries Council (EIC) and Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) are leading a UK delegation in partnership with the Department for International Trade (DIT). Space is available in a shared UK pavilion – visit the EIC events page for details.


18–19 June 2018, London.

The Nuclear Industry Association presents Decom2018, a conference looking at the latest developments in the domestic and global decommissioning markets.


The two-day event will feature panel discussions, keynote speeches and an opportunity to network with more than 250 senior leaders from across the decommissioning sector.

For more information, go to decom2018.co.uk


DIT Civil Nuclear Showcase 2018

27–28 February 2018, London.

The UK’s Department for International Trade presents the Civil Nuclear Showcase 2018.

With an established reputation in the civil nuclear calendar, this leading annual event is not to be missed. The Showcase provides a unique opportunity to network with a diverse mix of senior delegates from all around the world, including China, France, Japan and South Korea.


UK companies are invited to take part in a tailored programme designed to provide valuable insights into the latest global marketplace developments. You can network with a diverse mix of international and UK delegates representing government, utilities, technology providers, major contracting companies and all tiers of the supply chain; and participate in a series of country briefings to hear about developments and opportunities from DIT specialists in a range of key overseas markets.

Confirmed sponsors include Rolls-Royce, Wood, Urenco, NNL and NuGen.

For more information and to register, go to: www.events.trade.gov.uk/dit-civil-nuclear-showcase-2018

Advanced cooling with carbon dioxide

Monday 15 January 2018, Nuclear AMRC.

The Nuclear AMRC invites you to explore the state of the art in supercritical carbon dioxide coolant and other CO2 applications in advanced machining for the most demanding industries.

scCO2 breakthrough

The Nuclear AMRC is leading research into supercritical CO2 cooling for challenging machining tasks, focusing on deep-hole drilling for nuclear industry applications.

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, but needs further R&D to optimise for the most demanding tasks.

This one-day forum will bring together technology providers – including Fusion Coolant Systems, supplier of the Nuclear AMRC’s system – with industrial users and researchers to discuss the opportunities and challenges of CO2 coolants. We will also look at other applications such as CO2 cleaning.

Download the flyer for full details including agenda, or register now.

New portal links nuclear buyers with Fit For Nuclear manufacturers

Nuclear industry buyers have a new tool for identifying nuclear-ready suppliers with the launch of F4N Connect.

F4N Connect is a fully-searchable online database of UK manufacturers who have demonstrated their ability to meet the expectations of the civil nuclear industry. All listed companies have been granted Fit For Nuclear status after successfully completing the flagship supplier development programme run by the Nuclear AMRC.

F4N Connect laptop

Helen Arthur, supply chain development programme manager at the Nuclear AMRC, says: “F4N Connect is designed to help nuclear buyers find suppliers they can trust to meet their specific requirements. Whether you need a nuclear-qualified fabricator in the South West, a precision machinist near Sellafield, or a choice of companies who can quote for a complex heat exchanger, F4N Connect will let you find and contact suppliers who can do the job. 

“With Horizon Nuclear Power moving ahead with new build on Anglesey after securing approval for the ABWR, EDF Energy well underway with Hinkley Point C, and the continuing decommissioning programme around the UK, there are huge opportunities for manufacturers who can demonstrate that they’re ready to win work in nuclear.

“Fit For Nuclear has become the industry benchmark for nuclear-ready manufacturers, with hundreds of companies across the UK using the programme to enhance their capabilities and business performance. F4N Connect gives them an independent shop window, and lets them show potential customers exactly what they can offer.”

Delivered exclusively by the Nuclear AMRC – part of the UK’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult – Fit For Nuclear (F4N) lets UK manufacturers measure their operations against the standards required to supply the nuclear industry, and take the necessary steps to close any gaps.

More than 130 UK manufacturers have been granted F4N after driving improvements with the support of the Nuclear AMRC’s industrial advisors and nuclear supply chain specialists.

Participating companies range from contract manufacturers with no nuclear experience taking a first step into the sector, to established suppliers wanting to benchmark their position and drive business excellence. Most are SMEs operating at tier three or four of the nuclear supply chain, ranging from suppliers of nuclear-grade steels and forgings, to precision machinists, fabricators and specialist service providers.

The interactive F4N Connect portal allows companies working on nuclear projects (typically at tier two or three) to find suppliers and sub-contractors to meet their specific needs. Companies can search by:

  • Capabilities
  • Products & services
  • Facilities – machining, welding & cladding, inspection & testing, design
  • Sectors
  • Region

F4N-granted companies can also use their F4N Connect profiles to provide additional information about their products, accreditations and capabilities, including testimonials and case studies.

Listings are freely available to all companies which have been granted F4N. The database is independently managed by the Nuclear AMRC as a service to F4N companies – companies cannot pay for placement.

More than 65 F4N-granted companies completed their full profile before launch, with others in progress.

ABWR approved for UK development

New reactors in North Wales have moved a step closer as the Hitachi-GE Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) has been approved for construction in the UK.

Horizon Nuclear Power plans to build two 1300MWe ABWRs at the Wylfa Newydd site on Anglesey by the mid-2020s; followed by two at Oldbury, Gloucestershire.

The ABWR has now completed the generic design assessment (GDA) managed by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and Environment Agency with Natural Resources Wales. This assessment 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.

ONR has now issued a Design Acceptance Confirmation (DAC) and the environment agencies have issued a Statement of Design Acceptability (SoDA) to Hitachi-GE. This means that the regulators are satisfied that the ABWR meets regulatory expectations on safety, security and environmental protection at this stage of the regulatory process.

Each build will still require a site-specific licence. Horizon expects to obtain all necessary licences for Wylfa Newydd by the end of 2018.


ONR chief nuclear inspector Mark Foy commented: “The completion of the generic design assessment of the UK ABWR is a significant step in our regulation of the overall process to construct this type of reactor in the UK, ensuring that the generic design meets the highest standards of safety that we expect in this country. We’re already working on our assessment of Horizon’s site licence application and on the development of the site specific safety case to progress, in due course, the construction and operation of these reactors at Wylfa Newydd.”

Tadashi Kume, president & representative director of Hitachi-GE, said: “Meeting the famously high standards of the UK regulators  and completing GDA within our five year target further demonstrates the strength of this project, and capability of the team delivering it. GDA is a thorough and rigorous assessment, and receiving approval on schedule is a credit to the outstanding design of the UK ABWR.”

Andrew Storer, chief executive of the Nuclear AMRC, welcomed the announcement: “This is great news for the progress of the UK’s nuclear new build programme. Wylfa Newydd will bring significant opportunities for UK manufacturers and, as the project moves into the delivery phase, we look forward to working with Horizon to develop its UK supply chain.”

Horizon estimates that around 60 per cent by value of the first reactor will be sourced in the UK, with more local input into later plant. Hitachi-GE has signed agreements with Rolls-Royce and Babcock International to plan and deliver the programme, and will establish an assembly facility for its modular construction technology in the UK.

Manufacturers can register their interest via Horizon Nuclear Power supplier registration.


New support for next-generation nuclear technology

The government has launched a new package of support for the next generation of reactor technology, including funding to develop technologies for advanced modular reactors.

Details have also been released of the proposed nuclear sector deal, part of the UK’s new industrial strategy.

The government is offering funding over the next three years to support research and development into innovative advanced and small modular reactors, and to assess their feasibility and accelerate the development of promising designs.

The new government support includes up to £56 million funding for a two-stage advanced modular reactor (AMR) research programme.

In the first stage, companies and research institutions can bid for a share of £4 million funding for AMR feasibility projects through the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI). Up to £40 million follow-on funding may then be made available to projects which can demonstrate clear value for money.

The government also released the techno-economic assessment of small modular reactors (SMRs), part of the previous support programme for UK SMR development, which has now closed.

Other new measures include:

  • Up to £7 million funding to further develop the capability of nuclear regulators to support and assess advanced nuclear technologies.
  • £86 million for the UK Atomic Energy Authority to establish a new Nuclear Fusion Technology Platform.
  • An expert finance group to advise how small reactor projects could raise private investment in the UK.
  • A second phase of the Nuclear Innovation Programme, including up to £8 million for work on modern safety and security methodologies and studies in advanced fuels.
  • A consultation on updating the planning framework for new gigawatt-scale nuclear power stations.
  • Two consultations on the proposed Geological Disposal Facility.

Speaking at the Nuclear Industry Association’s annual conference, energy minister Richard Harrington said: “As we set out in our industrial strategy, the nuclear sector has a key role to play in increasing productivity and driving clean growth across the country. Nuclear is a vital part of our energy mix, providing low carbon power now and into the future so today’s package of new measures will help to boost innovation and provide greater clarity on our future plans.”

sector deal graphic

Details of the proposed nuclear sector deal were unveiled by the Nuclear Industry Council (NIC), a strategic advisory body comprising industry and government representatives. The Nuclear AMRC is a member of the NIC.

The proposed sector deal aims to maximise the potential for the nuclear sector to achieve the aims of the national industrial strategy. Proposals to deliver the maximum economic value to the UK include:

  • A new national supply chain programme, including demand modelling, to be delivered by the Nuclear AMRC.
  • Support for the development of new advanced capabilities through partnerships on modular manufacturing, advanced construction, equipment qualification, and control and instrumentation.
  • Clarity on future trade arrangements and support for exports, including a nuclear trade strategy.

Download the NIC nuclear sector deal proposals (pdf).