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Power Generation News, December 2017

The Nuclear AMRC is leading two new R&D projects to address fundamental challenges in nuclear manufacturing. The ‘Inform’ and ‘Simple’ projects, backed by government funding of almost £2.5m, will investigate two contrasting approaches to producing large-scale nuclear components.

 

CTO of the Nuclear AMRC, professor Steve Jones explained: “Both projects aim to provide significant improvements to UK productivity, potentially cutting manufacturing time and cost by half for a variety of large nuclear components.

 

“By developing innovative approaches to the fundamental challenges of manufacturing, these projects will help the UK’s nuclear supply chain to compete globally. These technologies could also provide major benefits to other high-value manufacturing sectors, such as offshore renewables or oil & gas.”

 

The ‘Inform’ project (intelligent fixtures for optimised and radical manufacture) will develop an adaptive fixturing system to ease the movement of large parts around a factory, and ensure precision throughout forging, machining, welding, inspection and assembly.

 

The Nuclear AMRC is leading the project, backed by around £1.1m project funding, with partners include fixturing specialist MetLase, Sheffield Forgemasters, Cambridge Vacuum Engineering, NPL and TWI.

 

The second project, ‘Simple’ (single manufacturing platform environment), aims to integrate a range of manufacturing operations onto a single machining platform. Supported by £1.35m project funding, the Nuclear AMRC will lead a research consortium including two of its sister centres within the High Value Manufacturing Catapult – the Advanced Forming Research Centre and AMRC with Boeing, as well as the University of Sheffield physics department, TWI and Peak NDT.

 

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UK ministers will this week renew their support for nuclear power with measures to strengthen the industry’s supply chain and develop a new generation of small-scale reactors. The future of nuclear energy in the UK has been called into question this year as the industry struggles to compete with the falling cost of renewable energy.

However, the government is expected to argue that nuclear power remains crucial to UK energy security and reducing carbon emissions.

 

It will signal its continued support with a package of measures to bolster nuclear research and engineering, according to people briefed on the plans. These will include long-awaited details of how the government plans to promote development of “mini nuclear plants” known as small modular reactors.

 

The measures are expected to coincide with a breakthrough in plans for a new large-scale nuclear plant at Moorside in Cumbria.  Kepco, the South Korean utility, is on the cusp of a provisional deal to invest in the Toshiba-owned NuGen consortium behind the Cumbrian project, according to people involved in the process.

 

The UK’s nuclear “new build” programme is intended to replace large amounts of dirty coal-fired power large amounts of dirty coal-fired power generating capacity and old nuclear plants due to be decommissioned in coming years.

 

However, the future of Moorside and several other planned projects have faced doubts over financing and affordability at a time when the cost of rival renewable power projects — especially offshore wind — is falling.

 

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More than half of the coal-fired power stations in the EU are lossmaking and almost all will be by 2030, according to a study that said the fossil fuel was facing a “death spiral’ in Europe.

 

Analysis of more than 600 power plants by Carbon Tracker, the climate think tank, estimates that €22bn of losses could be avoided by phasing out coal in the EU by the end of the next decade.

 

The research comes ahead of a climate summit to be hosted by Emmanuel Macron, French president, in Paris on Tuesday aimed at building on the international agreement on emissions cuts struck in the same city two years ago.

 

Coal plants still provide the backbone of the electricity system in parts of Europe but they are facing increasing economic pressure from regulatory measures to reduce emissions, as well as rising competition from renewable power.

 

It will be cheaper to build new onshore wind and solar capacity than to operate existing coal plants in the EU by 2024 and 2027, respectively, the study found. This is because of the falling cost of renewable technology coupled with more stringent air pollution standards due in 2021 and rising “carbon prices” levied on C02 emissions.

 

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The final foundation piles needed for supporting turbines for a massive offshore wind farm in the Moray Firth have been installed.  Energy firm SSE, which is involved in the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm project, said a total of 86 clusters of four piles had been put in place. A large crane ship was needed to install the 344 piles.

 

They will provide support for 84 turbines and two offshore transformer modules.

 

SSE said that, once completed in 2019, the £2.6bn renewable energy project would be capable of providing enough energy to power up to 450,000 homes.