Funding to put country at top of nuclear industry

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EXPERTS at Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre are starting new long-term research which they hope can put Britain back on top in the nuclear industry in time for the next generation of power stations.

Sheffield University academics have won £4m in funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to focus on the early development of new manufacturing technologies, the most promising of which will go into advanced development.

They are working alongside colleagues from the Dalton Nuclear Institute at Manchester University.

Professor Keith Ridgway, programme director at the Nuclear AMRC, told the Yorkshire Post: “The potential for us is to leapfrog other countries and competitive companies and give British reactor builders and component builders a chance of getting back into the market as a major player.”

Industry estimates suggest that British companies will be able to supply 60-80 per cent of requirements for the imminent third generation of nuclear power stations.

The £50bn engineering programme will create up to 10 new power stations in the UK, with French and American firms building the reactors.

The fourth generation expected in 20-30 years’ time will likely feature smaller or modular reactors at one fifth of the cost.

But builders will want to see many decades of experience from potential suppliers.

Prof Ridgway said the new research into new materials and manufacturing methods will help British companies move up the supply chain “well ahead of time”.

At the moment, the only two certified reactor designers are France’s Areva and America’s Westinghouse. Rolls-Royce already makes smaller nuclear reactors for submarines.

Professor Mike Burke, research director at the Nuclear AMRC, said: “This programme grant is a foresighted investment that will enable the pursuit of new and more efficient manufacturing technologies while maintaining the standards of reliability and safety that are expected in the nuclear industry.”

Meanwhile, Prof Ridgway said yesterday’s news that German utilities E.ON and RWE have scrapped plans to build new nuclear power stations in the UK could present opportunities for British firms.