Technology projects for UK nuclear industry

UK Business Secretary Vince Cable, via the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and other Government departments, has promised GBP18m of Government funding for various projects associated with developing commercial opportunities from technology developments for the nuclear industry: these projects will also bring in a further GBP13m of associated private funding. The projects relate to nuclear decommissioning as well as nuclear plant construction and operation: EDF will be involved in around half the projects quoted. TSB chief executive Iain Gray commented “The support announced today [for such highly-sophisticated and leading edge technologies] will help to develop capabilities in this country. That is good news for the economy because it will help us build a world-leading technology base that can provide solutions around the world as well as here in the UK.”

Dr Adrian Simper, the NDA’s Strategy and technology director at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, said:  “We were extremely pleased with the level of interest in decommissioning projects from both established organisations and smaller, newer businesses. Our decommissioning strategy focuses very much on developing innovative technologies through collaborative working, while joint funding initiatives such as this increase the investment potential and provide much broader opportunities for interested partners.

We also welcome the comprehensive nature of the subject areas, covering new build as well as decommissioning, which will enable the sharing and transfer of technologies between the different nuclear sectors.”

By 2030 it is forecast that globally there will be £930 billion investment in building new reactors and £250 billion in decommissioning those that are coming off-line. The nuclear new build programme in the UK alone could generate up to 40,000 jobs at its peak. The nuclear industrial strategy sets out the basis for a long-term partnership between government and industry to exploit those opportunities.

Summaries of the 16 collaborative large scale R&D projects

South West UK

  • Devon based SME, Beran Instruments, who successfully completed an earlier nuclear feasibility study funded by Technology Strategy Board, will lead a consortium comprising EDF and the University of Bristol. They will develop an Intelligent Condition Monitoring system for the Nuclear Power Industry that will enhanced plant performance and reduce operating costs.

Project funding: £298,800                   Total project value: £598,000

  • A consortium led by Bradtec, an SME based in Gloucester will be partnering with Hyder Consulting, Studsvik, Costain and the University of Manchester to explore the feasibility of an extremely innovative technology relating to graphite management from reactors. This would convert the graphite to carbon dioxide gas which could then be incorporated in a carbon capture and storage scheme

Project funding: £953,600                   Total project value: £1,600,000

  • Enabling Processes Ltd, an SME based in Bristol, EDF, NPL, TWI and the University of Southampton, will develop a new, low cost technology for the measurement of residual stress of large nuclear components, based on theoretical modeling and experimental development to replace expensive, time consuming, destructive methods

Project funding: £650,000                   Total project value: £1,081,000


  • Building on the success of an earlier Technology Strategy Board feasibility project, Cybula, a research intensive SME based in Yorkshire, will work with EDF nuclear generation and EDF R&D, on the development of pattern recognition software technologies to improve the efficiency of the monitoring and maintenance of nuclear power plant equipment.

Project funding: £336,000                   Total project value: £694,000

  • Sheffield Forgemasters International Ltd (SFIL) is a world leader in the production of cast reactor coolant pump (RCP) for nuclear power stations. Working with TWI and Sheffield University, SFIL will deliver a lower cost, cast solution for the RCP to replace the current forged design. Successful qualification should result in major export orders for the UK.

Project funding: £1,060,000               Total project value: £2,121,000

  • Another project led by Sheffield Forgemasters, this time working with Rolls Royce, MERMEC UK and the University of Sheffield, will develop innovative production, simulation and measurement technologies which will produce a full-scale, forged component for the primary loop of a civil nuclear power plant. The aim is for Forgemasters to be one of the first companies globally to produce and achieve mechanical properties on such a newly designed component.

Project funding: £1,098,000                Total project value: £2,195,000

  • Tata, Siempelkamp and the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Sheffield, will be developing an innovative materials technology which can be applied in nuclear waste storage vessels. The resultant technology will produce intellectual property for an alternative manufacturing production method for waste storage.

Project funding: £267,800                   Total project value: £534,000

South East

  • Laing O’Rourke, major partners in the construction of the Olympic Stadium and based in Dartford, will work with a consortium comprising Arup, the Building Research Establishment and Imperial College to optimise the design for manufacture and assembly of large preassembled components for construction in new nuclear power plant.

Project funding: £999,000                  Total project value: £1,998,000

  • A project led by Micron Semi-Conductors an SME based in Sussex, partnering with Schlumberger, Solaris Photonics and Brunel University will develop innovative hard sensors for radiation detection. They will have long term reliability for use in nuclear power generation plants, with potential spin out applications in other high temperature industrial applications.

Project funding: £846,000                   Total project value: £1,346,000

North West

  • C-Tech, an innovative SME based in Cumbria who successfully completed an earlier nuclear feasibility study funded by Technology Strategy Board, will take their technology to the next stage with NNL as a partner. The project will develop the technology to manage the effluent produced from current decontamination processes to enable the use of more effective agents and processes.

Project funding: £401,000                   Total project value: £802,000

  • Sellafield Ltd, will lead a consortium comprising Smith Engineering, MMI and Leeds University in the development of two innovative modeling and measurement tools to accelerate and optimise sludge waste characterization, separation, transfer and retrieval operations. This will improve efficiency and reduce costs of the waste processing.

Project funding: £592,000                   Total project value: £1,184,000

  • EDF and the University of Manchester will work together to develop advanced modeling tools and methods to predict and understand the behavior of key graphite components in nuclear reactors, in order to improve and inform operational and plant management decisions.

Project funding: £470,000                   Total project value: £939,000

  • Costain, the International engineering and construction group, working with Tetronics, a global leader in plasma arc systems, will develop a method based on plasma technology that will significantly reduce the cost of nuclear waste treatment. It is proposed to design, build and demonstrate operation of a DC plasma vitrification plant for processing intermediate low level waste.

Project funding: £858,800                   Total project value: £1,663,000


Plant Integrity Ltd, an SME based in Cambridge, will partner with Brunel University to develop a structural health monitoring system for permanent installation in pipelines in nuclear plants. The system, based on ultrasonics will provide continuous monitoring of high temperature components and improve overall plant inspection efficiency.

Project funding: £262,000                   Total project value: £525,000


  • EDF, in partnership with the Universities of Manchester and Surrey will evaluate the behaviour of graphite through its lifetime, under the extreme conditions of temperature and irradiation challenges in order to predict and improve lifetime. It could also play a major role in the research and design engineering support for next generation graphite moderated plants.

Project funding: £727,000                   Total project value: £1,480,000

  • EDF, working with experts from Imperial College and the Universities of Bristol and Manchester, will be evaluating the impact of the operating environment on nuclear power plant components. The project will explore the use of innovative non-destructive testing techniques to monitor the structural integrity of nuclear components in a highly efficient manner.

Project funding: £1,086,000                Total project value: £2,175,000

OC Robotics Project – Bristol

Included within the portfolio of projects is one under development by OC Robotics a UK SME, based in Bristol. LaserSnake combines two highly innovative technologies, advanced robotics and lasers, to create a safe and cost effective solution for the multi-million pound nuclear decommissioning market. The project will deliver a robust, re-usable robot controlled laser cutting technology that can be applied both in-air and underwater in confined and hazardous spaces to dismantle vessels, support structures, flasks and pipe work.

An initial successful feasibility study into the development of LaserSnake was funded by the Technology Strategy Board and the project has recently received additional co-funding of £6m from the Technology Strategy Board, DECC and NDA to develop the technology to a full-scale demonstration phase, which could lead to the UK being world leading in this technology area. This is the largest single grant ever given to an SME by the Technology Strategy Board.

Led by OC Robotics, the project consortium comprises NNL, TWI, ULO Optics and Laser Optical Engineering. The technology is already attracting significant market interest in the UK and overseas and has considerable spin off potential in other sectors including the petrochemical, military and construction industries.

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