Thursday, November 12, 2020

News: New nuclear opportunities for the region


Rotherham is an established location for research in the nuclear sector, could the next step for the borough be further manufacturing facilities for components that go into the new kinds of nuclear power stations, or even a location for the stations themselves?

The Nuclear AMRC, which has multimillion pound facilities on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham, has welcomed news this week that the UK SMR consortium, led by Rolls-Royce, has announced it expects to create 6,000 regional UK jobs within the next five years, if the UK Government makes a clear commitment that enables a fleet of 16 small modular reactor (SMR) power stations to be built over the next 20 years.

The Nuclear AMRC is a joint initiative with industry, The University of Sheffield and The University of Manchester's Dalton Nuclear Institute, and is designed to help build and enhance the UK's civil nuclear new build industry. It makes up part of the SMR consortium that is developing a new kind of power station designed to avoid the financing hurdles of large-scale infrastructure and power projects, and to reduce production costs by exploiting advanced manufacturing technologies.

Rolls-Royce said that up to 80% (by value) of the power station components will be made in factories in the Midlands and North of England, before being transported to existing nuclear sites around the country for rapid assembly inside weatherproof canopies.

Rolls-Royce bought large parcels of land on the AMP and on one of them it secured planning permission for a facility where it wanted to manufacture, assemble and test components for civil nuclear power stations. With the difficulties of getting large scale nuclear power stations built, the manufacturer's plans were scrapped.

Nuclear AMRC communications manager Tim Chapman said: "The consortium aims to have its first power station in operation within ten years of a first commercial order. That's a demanding schedule, considering the engineering and supply chain challenges of designing and producing a first-of-a-kind reactor, and the need to go through the UK’s generic design assessment (GDA) and site approval process.

"As well as providing firm low-carbon electricity, development of the UK SMR could also provide a major economic fillip to some of the UK's most economically depressed regions.

"To start with, it's likely that any UK SMR will be built on a current nuclear licenced site, such as the former Magnox site at Trawsfynydd in North Wales or Moorside in Cumbria.

"By 2050, a full UK programme of up to 16 of these power stations could create up to 40,000 jobs and £52 billion of value to the UK economy. Developing an SMR in the UK could also create an estimated £250 billion of exports – Rolls-Royce is already working with overseas utilities to explore deployment."

The UK Atomic Energy Authority's (UKAEA) new nuclear fusion technology research facility, built ahead of schedule on the AMP, is currently being fitted out. The UKAEA is working on fusion technology, which is the furthest away from full commercialisation, and will use the facility to develop and test joining technologies for fusion materials and components – for example novel metals and ceramics.

The Government body recently set out its intention later in autumn to publish a detailed site specification for the development of a new Nuclear Fusion Reactor prototype.

Based on South Yorkshire's credentials, the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership is ready to pitch to the UKAEA "setting out the capabilities of the region from a research, engineering, manufacturing, construction and civil engineering perspective as well as a potential site location for the UKAEA prototype fusion reactor facility."

Nuclear AMRC website
UKAEA website

Images: Rolls-Royce


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