Groundwork for giant new machines

Work has begun to prepare the Nuclear AMRC workshop for its newest and largest machining centres. The two machines will be the biggest of their kind available for collaborative research anywhere in the world.

The machines – a purpose-built vertical turning lathe from Dörries Scharmann, and a Soraluce FX12000 floor-type milling and boring centre – will be used to produce large representative-sized parts for the nuclear industry and other high-value sectors.

VTL constructionThe vertical turning lathe (VTL) will be capable of working on parts of up to five metres diameter and over three metres height. It will offer full milling and deep drilling capabilities, and is designed for the largest high-value components for the nuclear industry, including full-scale reactor internal parts. It is also ideal for machining offshore wind turbine shafts and the largest jet engine fan casings. The VTL is funded by the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, and is currently under construction at the Dörries factory in Germany.

SoraluceThe Soraluce will be capable of working on parts up to 12 metres in length and five metres diameter, and can complete five-sided machining of complex parts in a single set up.

It will be used to develop and demonstrate advanced manufacturing processes for large pressure vessels, high-value reactor internals and offshore wind turbine hubs.

“The Soraluce and Dörries VTL are an absolutely unique capability for any research centre,” says Nuclear AMRC machining head Stuart Dawson. “No other research centre anywhere in the world has the physical size or research capability of these machines, as far as we’re aware.”

Preparatory work to construct the additional foundations required for the new machines began in October. Creating the foundations will take around 20 weeks – while this has the potential to disrupt work in the rest of the Nuclear AMRC workshop, careful planning and specialist contractors mean the workshop will be closed for just three weeks in November. The Soraluce will then take around 12 weeks to install, and the VTL 14 weeks.

“It is a unique heavy engineering challenge,” Dawson notes. “But we will be the only research centre in the world with these capabilities and, from summer 2014, these very large machines will be available to manufacturers for collaborative projects.”

Mazak internalThe latest machining centre to be commissioned in the Nuclear AMRC workshop also offers unique capabilities for making complex high-precision components for the energy and oil and gas industries.

The Mazak Orbitec 20 features a unique turning and facing headstock, capable of generating turned features while keeping the workpiece stationary. It is ideal for parts which are too large or awkwardly shaped for conventional turning machines, and can carry out high-precision four-sided machining in a single set-up. The Nuclear AMRC’s Orbitec is currently the only one in Europe.

EDF agreement ‘a significant milestone’

EDF Energy and the UK government have agreed commercial terms for EDF’s proposed Hinkley Point C power station, a vital step towards a new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK.

HinkleyCThe long-awaited deal sets the financial structure for the long-term supply of low-carbon electricity from new reactors at Hinkley Point. EDF still has to make a final investment decision on the project.

“This is a significant milestone in the development of new nuclear power stations in the UK,” commented Mike Tynan, chief executive of the Nuclear AMRC. “Utilities, developers and investors need confidence in both long term cost and revenue profiles for making a final investment decision, and I’m sure that this announcement will be welcomed by everyone involved in UK new nuclear build. 

“The Nuclear AMRC looks forward to the Hinkley Point scheme moving forward with EDF Energy, and is already working closely with EDF and Areva to develop the UK supply chain.”

Electricity from Hinkley Point C will receive a guaranteed price under the “contract for difference” (CFD) regime which also applies to windfarms and other low-carbon sources. The price is £92.50/MWh, linked to the consumer price index. If EDF confirms that it will also build new capacity at Sizewell, that price is reduced to £89.50/MWh to reflect economies of scale.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) forecasts that electricity from Hinkley Point C will be competitive with future gas generation prices. The contract will last for 35 years from the date of commissioning, and will give EDF a rate of return of around 10 per cent.

EDF has also announced details of the investment consortium for Hinkley Point C. EDF group will retain 45-50 per cent of the venture, with reactor provider Areva taking 10 per cent. Following the government’s recent go-ahead for Chinese investment in UK nuclear generation, China General Nuclear Corporation and China National Nuclear Corporation will take a total 30-40 per cent stake. Other interested parties may take up to 15 per cent of the venture.

The consortium will invest around £16 billion in two EPRs at Hinkley Point, including £14 billion in construction costs. Around 57 per cent of the construction value could be spent in the UK, EDF says.

EDF confirmed that it has finalised terms with the four top-tier suppliers to the project:

  • Bouygues TP/Laing O’Rourke (civil works)
  • Costain (marine work)
  • Alstom (turbines)
  • Areva (instrumentation & control, nuclear steam supply system, fuel)

EDF Energy chief executive Vincent de Rivaz said: “What we are announcing today is a good, fair and balanced deal for consumers, the UK and EDF. The project will kick start the UK nuclear programme and will help rebuild the nation’s industrial stamina. The progress so far on the project reflects the great skill and determination of a world class team which is ready to get to work and turn Hinkley Point C into a reality.”

Luc Oursel, chief executive of Areva, said: “Today’s agreement represents the fruit of a joint endeavour with EDF since 2007 to contribute to the renewal of nuclear energy in the United Kingdom. This fifth and sixth EPR projects will benefit from the experience gained from the EPR reactors under construction in Finland, France and China.”

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Go-ahead for Chinese investment

The UK government has confirmed that Chinese companies can invest in nuclear power generation companies.

Chancellor George Osborne announced that Chinese companies can take a stake ­– including potential majority stakes – in UK nuclear new build consortia. He made the announcement while visiting Taishan nuclear power station, a collaboration between EDF and the China General Nuclear Power Company (CGNPC), in southern China.

Osborne said: “Today is another demonstration of the next big step in the relationship between Britain and China – the world’s oldest civil nuclear power and the world’s fastest growing civil nuclear power. It is an important potential part of the government’s plan for developing the next generation of nuclear power in Britain. It means the potential of more investment and jobs in Britain, and lower long-term energy costs for consumers.”

HinkleyCThere has been ongoing speculation about a potential collaboration between EDF Energy – which is is proposing to build new Areva EPRs at Hinkley Point, Somerset (pictured), and Sizewell, Suffolk – and a Chinese partner for the UK projects. EDF, Areva and CGNPC signed a joint statement of cooperation in April covering development at Taishan and other sites, which paves the way for the European groups to help improve the safety and performance of CGNPC’s reactors.

The announcement has been broadly welcomed by the UK nuclear industry.

“This is a significant and welcome investment announcement for the UK’s nuclear new-build programme and supporting supply chain, which could lead to real export potential for UK manufacturers into China’s internal, fast-growing, multi-billion pound nuclear new build market,” commented Martin Ride, supply chain consultant at the Nuclear AMRC.

“We welcome the involvement of participating Chinese companies, and will work to develop relationships and interest in areas of manufacturing and business support which will lead to new opportunities for the UK. With advanced discussions on the market-price agreement and this announcement, October has seen nuclear new build move that much closer to realisation.”

The announcement follows the signing of a new memorandum of understanding on civil nuclear collaboration between the UK and China. The memorandum sets the strategic framework for collaboration on investment, technology, construction and expertise.

As well as supporting Chinese investment in the UK, the memorandum will make sure that British companies such as Rolls Royce, International Nuclear Services (INS) and engineering companies such as Mott MacDonald can be part of China’s multi-billion pound new nuclear programme. INS recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese Nuclear Power Engineering Company Ltd to share UK expertise in radioactive waste management.

Decommissioning supply opportunities

Wednesday 13 November, Manchester.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority presents its largest ever supply chain event.

NDA Estate Supply Chain Event 2013 aims to highlight opportunities along the supply chain, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses, and will include presentations from the NDA, site licence companies and key government speakers.

For more information, go to:

See our nuclear decommissioning intelligence page for more information on the opportunities for manufacturers.