A project for a New Nuclear Build and Manufacturing (NNUMAN) programme has been awarded £4m funding by the EPSRC.
A recent House of Lords’ Science and Technology Committee report identified insufficient research and development capacity as a potential threat to the UK’s ability to produce power from nuclear energy.
EPSRC says the proposal from Manchester and Sheffield addressed the concern raised by the Nuclear Research and Development Capabilities report by promoting research and development to evolve a robust civil nuclear power supply to meet UK and global energy needs well into the future with significant work on the fundamentals of manufacturing for new nuclear new build and the next generation of power stations.
“Several years ago EPSRC recognised the importance of maintaining an expertise in nuclear engineering in the UK, and made a strategic investment in postgraduate training through its Keeping the Nuclear Option Open (KNOO) initiative and subsequent funding programmes," said EPSRC chief executive Professor Dave Delpy.
"The New Nuclear Build and Manufacturing programme builds on these earlier investments and will play a key role in helping develop new manufacturing techniques that will lead to materials that can function more effectively in the hostile operating environments of a nuclear reactor.
"Having a cutting edge capability in these fields will mean we have a stronger foothold in the manufacturing sector and are able to attract the best students and researchers to the UK.”
EPSRC says that by acting as the research engine for nuclear manufacturing, NNUMAN will drive progress and step-change technologies up the Technology Readiness Scale.
The most improved manufacturing processes developed in NNUMAN will be taken forward to prototype in the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Nuclear AMRC) in Rotherham and the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) to enable UK manufacturing companies to learn the benefits of the new methods and use them in the future.
Through a programme of multi-disciplinary research at Manchester and Sheffield, the next generation of nuclear manufacturing scientists and engineers will be trained with the highest level of academic and technical support, using world-class facilities and with strong links to industry.
They will develop high level skills in readiness to fill new high-quality jobs throughout the supply chain created through the growth in the manufacturing sector linked with nuclear build.
“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," said Mike Burke, director of Research & Technology, Nuclear AMRC and programme director, based at the Dalton Nuclear Institute’s Manufacturing Technology Research Laboratory at the University of Manchester.
“It also represents an exciting opportunity for our next generation of scientists and engineers to develop state-of-the-art understanding of new processes and product performance.”