The Nuclear AMRC is a partner in a host of collaborative research and development projects, supported by UK and international funding programmes.
Current collaborative R&D projects at the Nuclear AMRC include:
- Advanced manufacturing for SMR pressure vessels – a long-term collaboration with the US Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to develop new manufacturing and fabrication methods for reactor pressure vessels. The project aims to reduce the total time needed to produce a SMR pressure vessel from three to four years to less than 12 months. In the first phase, we have developed electron beam welding techniques for vessel sections made from metal powder using hot isostatic pressing – download the case study. The project is funded by the US Department of Energy, and involves industrial partners on both sides of the Atlantic including Sheffield Forgemasters.
- Affirm (advanced photogrammetry for flexible intelligent robotic manufacturing) – With £1 million funding from Innovate UK’s Smart Grant programme, this two-year project is developing a new platform for robotic manufacturing and autonomous inspection. We are integrating technology from project partners Insphere and Createc into our modular intelligent manufacturing and inspection cell.
- TEL-ND – a project led by Sheffield-based software company BOW to develop robotic systems for the safe decommissioning of legacy nuclear sites, with funding by the Defence & Security Accelerator (DASA). Research focuses on telexistence tools for the remote decommissioning of contaminated gloveboxes, removing the human operator from a hazardous environment.
- UltraMQL – a £1.35 million project led by machining specialist Kugel Rotary Services, and funded by Innovate UK through its Smart Grant programme, to develop an innovative lubrication system for environmentally-friendly machining. We are contributing our expertise in minimum quantity lubricant (MQL) techniques, and helping integrate the technologies developed by the partners into a working prototype.
- AI6S – a collaboration to improve the efficiency of heat treatment for energy-intensive foundation industries such as glass and metal forming. We are leading work on process simulation and verification, to support the development of machine-learning models for process optimisation. The two-year project is led by industrial software developer HyBird, with £1.4 million funding from UKRI through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).
- SafeG – a European collaboration to develop and demonstrate the safety of gas-cooled fast reactors through innovative materials, technologies and processes. We are contributing to research into sensors and instrumentation, and material development and testing. SafeG is funded by the Horizon 2020 Euratom programme and involves 14 partners across Europe.
- Advanced Construction Technology – an international collaboration to develop advanced construction technologies that can reduce the cost of new nuclear builds by more than 10 per cent, led by GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and supported by the US Department of Energy’s National Reactor Innovation Center with $5.8 million funding. We are contributing our expertise in sensor development and welding, including weld simulation.
- Nucobam (nuclear components based on additive manufacturing) – manufacturing, characterisation and validation studies to assess additive manufacturing as a method for producing components for the nuclear sector. The €2.5 million project is funded by Horizon 2020, and led by CEA of France with 12 partners from across Europe.
Completed collaborative projects include:
- Awesim (automated welding equipment system inspection and monitoring) – a Nuclear Innovation Programme (NIP) project led by Cavendish Nuclear, to develop automated inspection and monitoring techniques for high-quality welding. The technology enables early detection of flaws as they occur, reducing rework, repair and removing redundant mid-stage weld inspections, with significant cost and time benefits in the manufacture of nuclear components.
- Nuclear hydrogen cogeneration feasibility study – we worked with Frazer-Nash Consultancy on an initial study for a proposed hydrogen production demonstrator and test facility to simulate the heat and electricity outputs of new designs of small and advanced reactor. The project was funded by BEIS through the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio.
- PITCO2C (process improvement through CO2 cooling) – a NIP project led by Nuclear Energy Components Ltd to quantify the benefits of supercritical carbon dioxide coolant for nuclear machining, and develop a rotary coolant adaptor to allow widespread deployment of the technology on legacy machine tools. The project built on our previous research into advanced coolants for nuclear applications.
- SonicSMR – a NIP project to develop high-quality additive manufacturing techniques for small modular reactor components, led by Laser Additive Solutions Ltd. The project used power ultrasonics, optical process monitoring and AI-based automated defect recognition to enable defect-free additive manufacturing, with LAS creating a fully operational additive cell at its Doncaster facility to demonstrate the technology. We led research into high-power ultrasonics to improve the components’ material properties.
- Mobile weld computed tomography (MW-CT) – a NIP project combining 3D position-sensing techniques with autonomous robotics, led by Createc. The resulting in-process radiographic system is designed to be safer, less obstructive, and offer higher performance than established techniques for industrial weld inspection.
- Meactos (mitigating environmentally-assisted cracking through optimisation of surface condition) – reducing the risk of stress corrosion cracking in the primary circuit of light water reactors. The €2.5 million project was funded by Horizon 2020, and involved 16 partners led by Ciemat of Spain. We focused on the root causes of stress corrosion cracking in nuclear steels.
- Power electronics, machines and drives for nuclear coolant systems – a collaboration with Hayward Tyler to develop a new coolant pump for small modular reactors (SMRs), and help the UK supply chain prepare to produce critical components for the global SMR market. The one-year project was funded by UKRI through the ISCF driving the electric revolution challenge.
- High-integrity busbars for electric vehicle battery systems – a collaboration with HV Wooding, supported by Innovate UK through the Faraday Battery Challenge, to develop alternative coating methods to improve the performance and integrity of critical components for electric vehicles.
- Simple (single manufacturing platform environment) – integrating a range of technologies and operations into a single machine, reducing cycle time for large complex components. We worked with the Advanced Forming Research Centre, AMRC, University of Sheffield physics department, TWI and Peak NDT, with funding from the Nuclear Innovation Programme.
- Inform (intelligent fixtures for optimised and radical manufacture) – tackling a range of challenges in producing high-precision fabrications. Partners included Sheffield Forgemasters, MetLase, Cambridge Vacuum Engineering, Specnow, EGB Vacuum and TWI, with funding from the Nuclear Innovation Programme.
- Gemini+ – developing a small modular high-temperature gas reactor for industrial co-generation applications. The €2.5 million project was funded by Horizon 2020, with 27 partners from Europe, South Korea, Japan and the US. We led a study on modular manufacturing and construction techniques for the proposed reactor.
- Nnuman – £8 million EPSRC-funded programme led by The University of Manchester Dalton Nuclear Institute, with support from the Nuclear AMRC and National Nuclear Laboratory. Nnuman addressed new R&D capabilities to support the future needs of the UK and global nuclear industry, in areas including joining, advanced machining, near-net shape manufacture, and product performance.
- Innovative forging and fabrication solutions for the energy sector – a £4 million, 30-month project led by Sheffield Forgemasters to reduce the cost, lead time and embodied energy of large forgings. The project involved the production of large prototype nuclear components using a range of forging, forming and fabrication methods. We provided machining and other process development support – download the case study (pdf) on how we demonstrated time savings of more than 40 per cent for milling large forgings.
- Amos – we led this €2.6 million, four-year collaboration between European and Canadian aerospace manufacturers and researchers, to investigate the use of additive manufacturing techniques for repair and remanufacturing. The project involved a range of additive technologies used by the partners, with the Nuclear AMRC focusing on wire-feed gas tungsten arc processes used in our bulk additive cell. Amos was supported by Horizon 2020 and Canadian funding agencies CARIC and NSERC.
- Coroma – we worked alongside our sister centre, the AMRC, on this €6 million, three-year project to develop intelligent robots for a range of manufacturing tasks. Funded through Horizon 2020, the Coroma consortium included 16 international partners from seven countries. We demonstrated applications for large reactor components, including automated grinding of nuclear fuel racks and tube structures.
Find out more about how collaborative R&D with the Nuclear AMRC can help your business develop new capabilities or tackle your manufacturing challenges.