Nuclear AMRC hosts showcase for UK innovation

The Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre has hosted its first major conference, to share the latest nuclear industry innovations with companies from across the UK.

The Nuclear Innovation UK conference took place at Sheffield’s historic Cutlers’ Hall over 2–3 July 2019, with around 275 delegates from across the UK and from international organisations.

Organised by the Nuclear AMRC – part of the UK’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult – in collaboration with the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) and industry partners, the conference focused on research supported by the government-funded Nuclear Innovation Programme.

The Nuclear Innovation Programme is the UK’s first public investment in future nuclear fission for a generation. Closely linked to the Nuclear Sector Deal launched in June 2018, the programme funds research into advanced manufacturing and materials and supports the development of new designs of advanced reactor.

Andrew Storer, Chief Executive Officer of the Nuclear AMRC, says: “With the UK committing to zero net carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, nuclear power must play a major role in our national energy mix. We need to bring new designs of advanced nuclear power plant to the grid within the next 20 years, and the Nuclear Innovation Programme is developing the enabling solutions that will bring these new technologies to market.

“We are delighted to host this conference in Sheffield, and to welcome engineers and researchers from across the UK and beyond to discover the latest in world-leading nuclear innovation. More than ever, we need to innovate and to bring innovations together.”

Guest speakers at the conference included Dr Tim Stone, Chair of the Nuclear Industry Association; Allan Cook, Chair of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult; Professor Ian Chapman, Chief Executive of the UK Atomic Energy Authority; Adriènne Kelbie, Chief Executive of the Office for Nuclear Regulation; plus leading figures from the Nuclear AMRC, NNL, and Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

The conference included a series of technical presentations covering research projects from all areas of the Nuclear Innovation Programme: advanced manufacturing and materials; advanced fuels and recycling; and reactor design and engineering.

The Nuclear AMRC is leading two of the advanced manufacturing projects, to develop new tools and techniques which could help halve the production time and cost for pressure vessels and other large components for new reactors.

The Simple project (Single Manufacturing Platform Environment) aims to integrate a range of machining, fabrication and inspection operations onto a single manufacturing platform. Doing more on one machine will reduce the need to move large components between work areas, helping ensure accuracy and quality control throughout the manufacturing process. The 18-month first phase has involved Nuclear AMRC engineers working with a host of academic and industrial partners to develop intelligent welding and inspection tools.

The Inform project (Intelligent Fixtures for Optimised and Radical Manufacture) is meanwhile addressing a series of challenges in forming, machining and assembling large components. The Nuclear AMRC is working with leading industry and research partners including Sheffield Forgemasters and Rotherham-based MetLase.

Conference delegates had the opportunity to visit the Nuclear AMRC’s research factory on the Advanced Manufacturing Park to see the Simple and Inform technologies in action.

The Nuclear AMRC has also worked with partners on other projects funded by the Nuclear Innovation Programme, including the Fit For Modules project led by Cammell Laird to develop fundamental systems for modular design; research into advanced joining technologies led by Frazer-Nash Consultancy; and the Mattear project (Materials and Manufacturing Technology Evaluation for Advanced Reactors) led by Wood.

The Q3 edition of Nuclear AMRC News, published in August, will include a full write-up of the conference.