Chilled machining to reduce stress

The Nuclear AMRC is exploring the use of cryogenic coolant for civil nuclear machining, with the aim of improving machining efficiency and increasing tool life while minimising the risk of component failure.

cryo machining

Cryogenic cooling uses extremely cold gas or liquid to control the heat generated during machining. Benefits can include reduced residual stress and thermal damage, improved surface roughness and longer tool life.

Nuclear AMRC machining researchers have installed a carbon dioxide cooling system to the Hermle C60, a flexible five-axis mill-turn centre, and investigating its use in cutting a range of hard-to-machine metals, including steels, titanium and nickel alloys. CO2 can replace conventional coolant for many cutting tasks, and can potentially benefit processes which are usually run dry.

The ChilAire Aero system delivers a controlled stream of carbon dioxide gas and CO2 ice particles through the machine spindle or external nozzles.

As it expands, the CO2 reaches temperatures as low as –78°C. This is not as cold as temperatures achieved with liquid nitrogen, the standard for cryogenic cooling, but is more controllable and reduces the risk of adverse material effects.

cryo spindle

“We are looking to develop this environmentally-friendly technology for nuclear applications,” says Dr Krystian Wika, advanced cooling technology lead at the Nuclear AMRC. “One of the major benefits of cryogenic machining is that it has the potential to reduce residual stress and help prevent stress corrosion cracking.

“With carbon dioxide, our aim is to optimise the key process variables so we can control the cooling and improve the surface integrity. If you can obtain favourable compressive stresses instead of tensile stresses, you can help stop crack initiation and propagation and extend the life of nuclear components.”

Initial research is benchmarking carbon dioxide against conventional coolant, and seek to understand how it behaves under different application modes, flow rates, pressures and machining parameters.

Carbon dioxide avoids the chemical hazards of conventional coolants, and can be used in non-enclosed portable machining tools, but the gas does bring its own risks in the workplace. The Nuclear AMRC has introduced additional safety measures around the Hermle during trials, including CO2 alarms and personal exposure monitors.

The researchers are also using another recent addition to the machining group’s R&D armoury, a state-of-the-art high-speed thermal camera.

The Flir X6580sc cryo-cooled medium wavelength infrared camera can visualise and quantify changes in surface temperature and heat dissipation during machining processes, including drilling, milling and turning.

The camera is fully calibrated from –20° to 1500°C and can take up to 355 frames per second at 640×512 pixel resolution.

“This is probably the fastest thermal camera on the market with this level of detail, and has a range of unique features,” says Wika. “It will help us reach a deeper understanding of cryogenic cooling and many other challenging issues in high-performance machining.”

  • nl21 frontFor more news on how the Nuclear AMRC is supporting industry through manufacturing R&D and supplier development, download our Q4 newsletter (4MB pdf).

The power of additive

26 January 2016.


The Nuclear AMRC invites you to explore the state of the art in bulk additive manufacturing processes for the energy industry.

This special event will focus on additive manufacturing technologies and applications for civil nuclear, oil and gas, renewables and other innovative power generation sectors.

Metal additive manufacturing can bring significant commercial benefits to the power generation industry, including reduced lead time and production cost, while avoiding problems with transportation and supply chain capability and capacity.

New additive techniques can also help overcome technical challenges including microstructural inhomogeneity, defect occurance and detection, and size and geometric limitations.

Discover how major companies are already developing and implementing bulk additive manufacturing techniques, and find out how your business could benefit from these new capabilities.

To register, got to

For more information, contact

Civil Nuclear Showcase

19-21 January 2016, London.

UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) and the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) present the UK’s leading international networking event for the nuclear industry.

The Civil Nuclear Showcase takes place over three days in central London and aims to provide valuable insights into the civil nuclear marketplace while connecting the industry with key stakeholders.

The event offers a tailored conference programme covering trade and investment opportunities across the UK nuclear sector, plus a networking reception and one-to-one meetings to connect with UK industry and international stakeholders.

For more information, visit UKTI’s Civil Nuclear Showcase 2016 website.

UKTI tech


The economic case for SMRs

In his autumn statement and spending review, chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne announced new funding to develop small modular reactors in the UK. Mike Tynan, Nuclear AMRC chief executive, explores the economic case for SMRs.

NuScale plant

There’s been a lot of talk about small modular reactors (SMRs) recently. Proponents say that SMRs present the UK with the opportunity to regain a global lead in reactor technology, while meeting the country’s need for affordable and secure low-carbon electricity.

But why would a small nuclear reactor be any more efficient or economic to build and operate than a reactor 10 or 20 times its size? The answer is that it’s not necessarily more efficient – however, it is much more affordable.

The global reactor vendors have focused on developing and building very large output nuclear reactors. Each has its own branded technology – Areva’s EPR, Westinghouse’s AP1000 and GE’s ESBWR – all varieties of light water reactor generating between 1100 and 1700 megawatt. The premise is the bigger the better, particularly for markets like the UK where nuclear forms part of baseload generation.

The case for economies of scale was partly based on a high initial capital cost followed by 60 years of low operating costs, providing excellent revenue streams with good return on a safe investment. Reality for the large reactors has not proved so simple. Initial capital costs are significantly higher than originally expected, and the cost of financing such a multi-billion pound investment can be prohibitive. This severely impacts the business model for large units – witness the difficulties in attracting investors for Hinkley Point C.

To compare electricity prices between technologies, we need to calculate a levelised cost of electricity (LCOE). The current wholesale price of electricity in the UK is around £45 per megawatt hour, while the agreed price for electricity from the planned new nuclear station at Hinkley Point C is £92.50/MWh. This price is driven, in large part, by the expense of financing the project. Many have argued that this strike price is too expensive, and it is higher than originally expected. However, it is in line with the estimated full cost of new gas generation by 2025 – £85-95/MWh, according to the UK’s independent Committee on Climate Change.

SMR developers claim that their LCOE could be in the region of current electricity market prices, thanks largely to the much lower capital cost. Realistically, I expect that cost to be in the region of £60-75/MWh, but anything lower will be a real bonus. In an assessment of SMRs led by the National Nuclear Laboratory and published in December 2014, the best estimate was in excess of £80/MWh – not hugely different from the strike price for the EPR at Hinkley Point.

So what would make SMRs more affordable than the gigawatt-scale reactors? It all comes down to how we make them. Because SMRs will be built in relatively high volumes in factory conditions, there are a number of very practical steps that would significantly reduce their capital cost. These include modular construction of the reactor unit; modularisation of concrete infrastructure; design for manufacturing; and the use of advanced production processes such as electron beam welding and hot isostatic pressing.

Significantly reducing SMR production costs is eminently achievable – but it’s no less important to ensure a strong route to market at home and abroad, and a UK supply chain that delivers high-value sustainable jobs in the long term. To achieve the best economic value for the UK, technology vendors will need to create UK entities that deliver indigenous intellectual property. It is this issue, rather than the technology itself, that will stir UK government and industry into action on SMRs.

The Nuclear AMRC is working with the principal SMR technology vendors in support of their drive for a UK SMR. We have the technology, expertise and experience to de-risk SMR programmes, support design for manufacturing, develop innovative solutions for SMR manufacture and deliver high-value complex components, large and small. We are also working with the UK civil nuclear supply chain to ensure that UK suppliers can deliver competitive products and services for SMR technology vendors.

EIC Connect Energy

24-25 November, Manchester.

EIC Energy15

EIC Connect Energy aims to highlight potentially lucrative global opportunities and identify UK capability on major power, nuclear and renewable energy projects around the world.

For 2015, the EIC’s flagship event will look to directly contribute to the export of UK companies through a series of informative presentations by the major energy sector operating companies and their contractors.

The two-day event will focus on the search for new and innovative technologies and cost-saving products, and explore the foreign markets relevant to the nuclear, renewable and conventional power markets.

The Nuclear AMRC is supporting the event, and our Fit For Nuclear team will be offering one-to-one consultations with SMEs to help them seize the opportunities of nuclear. Our MD Andy Storer is also chairing Wednesday’s Nuclear Outlook conference session and a discussion of skills issues across the energy sector.

For more information and to register, go to the EIC Connect Energy homepage.


In-process inspection for the biggest components

The Nuclear AMRC has installed the state-of-the-art Renishaw Sprint scanning system in its largest machining centre, the first time the technology has been deployed in a machine of this size.

Soraluce Sprint

By providing rapid in-process measurement and monitoring during complex machining tasks, the technology promises to significantly reduce risk and cost in the production of very large high-value components.

The Sprint on-machine contact scanning system was developed by Renishaw to allow high-speed, high-accuracy scanning during CNC machining processes. The probe rapidly creates data-rich coordinate information about the workpiece surface to an accuracy of a few microns, which can be compared to model data at each stage of machining and used to control the machining process.

“The Sprint system’s combination of high speed and high accuracy measurement brings new capability to on-machine process control, combating the inherent trade off between cycle time and quantity of data often experienced with current industry standard measurement and process control solutions,” explains Derek Marshall, scanning and software group business manager for Renishaw’s machine tool products division.

The Sprint system has been adopted in industries such as aerospace, and has been deployed on a number of machines at the Nuclear AMRC’s sister centre, the AMRC with Boeing.

“The Sprint system has demonstrated real benefits on smaller machines,” says Carl Hitchens, Nuclear AMRC head of metrology. “The increased performance requirements of modern high-value components call for ever more demanding tolerances, and the Sprint system is a valuable enabling technology to increase confidence in the manufacturing process.”

Soraluce ext

The Sprint technology has now been installed on the Soraluce FX12000 horizontal boring centre, the largest machine tool at the Nuclear AMRC with a working volume of 300m3.

The FX12000 was supplied and installed last year by Soraluce, part of DanobatGroup of Spain, and its UK agent TW Ward CNC Machinery.

Both companies have now joined the Nuclear AMRC as tier two members, to support ongoing research into innovative techniques and new applications for their machines.

“This is the first time that Renishaw’s Sprint system has been used on a CNC machine tool of this size,” says Hitchens. “We are aiming to create a step change for in-process inspection of very large high-value components, and provide a distinct competitive advantage for UK manufacturing for nuclear and other demanding sectors.”

In-process inspection can bring significant cost and time savings for parts over two metres in size, and help ensure right-first-time production.

Sprint Carl

“Moving large components from the machining centre to a CMM can be logistically difficult, and often accounts for a significant amount of the overall manufacturing time,” Hitchens notes. “It also increases the risk of the part being damaged during transport, and of errors incurred during manufacture not being identified in time.”

For key nuclear components, such manufacturing problems can cause hugely expensive delays in new build or maintenance projects.

The Sprint system can capture 3D data at a rate of 1000 points per second, with a feedrate of up to 15 metres per minute. It can also be used to check for sources of geometric error in a machine tool, automatically check component position and alignment during set-up, and measure critical features after machining.

The Nuclear AMRC machining team will also use Sprint’s capabilities to support research into the dynamics of large machine tools. “The mass of the moving parts in these large machines creates a lot of inertia that needs to be understood if we are to achieve reliable and repeatable measurements,” explains Hitchens. “We are already actively working on this issue, to improve the cutting performance of these machines.”

“Renishaw puts a strong emphasis on such development relationships,” says Marshall. “This project demonstrates the strong commitment of all parties to improvements in on-machine measurement technology.”

  • nl21 frontFor more news on how the Nuclear AMRC is supporting industry through manufacturing R&D and supplier development, download our Q4 newsletter (4MB pdf).

Chinese investor confirms Hinkley Point support

Chinese investors have confirmed details of their support for EDF Energy’s proposed new nuclear power stations.


China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) will invest £6 billion for a 33.5 per cent stake in the Hinkley Point C project.

EDF retains the remaining 66.5 per cent of the project. The French group said it intends to bring other investors into the project, but will retain a majority stake.

The strategic investment agreement was signed in the presence of Chinese president Xi Jinping and UK prime minister David Cameron.

Andrew Storer, managing director of the Nuclear AMRC, commented: “This is great news for the nuclear industry. We need Hinkley Point to move forwards to help kickstart the UK’s new build programme across a range of potential developers and technologies. This announcement is a really important step in the process of launching the Hinkley Point project, and a fantastic achievement for the EDF team.

“The new build programme will create a great stimulus and help secure skills and capability across our industry, not just in new build.

“It’s been a long time coming, but the supply chain has been using the time to get ready for Hinkley Point and the other potential projects. We now need to see a final investment decision that enables further contracts to be placed, and the work we’ve been doing with the supply chain to be put into action.”

The Nuclear AMRC works with UK manufacturers along the supply chain to help them become more competitive, including focused supplier development support through the Fit For Nuclear and Civil Nuclear Sharing in Growth programmes. Over 60 per cent of the Hinkley Point project value will be spent in the UK, EDF says.

EDF proposes to build two Areva EPRs at Hinkley Point, with the first planned to be operational in 2025. EDF chairman Jean-Bernard Lévy said the group was “planning for a final investment decision within weeks”.

The strategic investment agreement also paves the way for CGN to take a 20 per cent stake of EDF’s proposed development of two EPRs at Sizewell, and 66.5 per cent of a new collaborative project to develop two Chinese HPR1000 Hualong reactors at Bradwell, Essex.

EDF and CGN have worked together for around 30 years, and are currently collaborating on two EPRs at Taishan, China.

£100m Hinkley Point contracts for Rolls-Royce

EDF Energy has announced another two preferred bidder contracts for major work packages at the proposed new Hinkley Point C reactor.

baffle cage intRolls-Royce is set to supply heat exchangers to be used at Hinkley Point C in a contract worth over £25 million.

The Nuclear AMRC has worked with Rolls-Royce to significantly reduce the time and cost of manufacturing complex heat exchanger sub-assemblies as part of the Civil Nuclear Sharing in Growth programme, with support from the Regional Growth Fund.

And a partnership between Rolls-Royce and Nuvia has been selected as the preferred bidder for a contract worth over £75 million to design, procure, install and commission two systems for the treatment and waste processing of reactor coolant at Hinkley Point C.

Jonathan Brown, president for new build and nuclear projects at Rolls-Royce said: “We are delighted to be selected by EDF Energy for these important contracts. Rolls-Royce is committed to delivering a high value added design, manufacturing and systems capability for the UK new build programme.”

The announcement was welcomed by Mike Tynan, chief executive of the Nuclear AMRC: “This is excellent news for Rolls-Royce, one of our principal industrial partners, and also for the many UK manufacturers in its supply chain. We have worked closely with Rolls-Royce to develop innovative advanced manufacturing solutions for nuclear systems including heat exchangers, and we will continue to support the company and its suppliers to make sure that UK manufacturers can secure the maximum value from investment in nuclear new build.”

The Nuclear AMRC is part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, the national network of R&D centres supported by Innovate UK, for which Rolls-Royce is a key industrial partner.

HPC from seaIn July, EDF announced preferred bidders for Hinkley Point C contracts worth over £1.5 billion. EDF now estimates that more than 60 per cent of the construction cost for Hinkley Point C will be placed with UK firms. Any contract signings are subject to a final investment decision.

Vincent de Rivaz, EDF Energy chief executive, said: “Hinkley Point C offers the UK a tremendous opportunity to boost employment and skills in the crucial manufacturing and construction sectors, as well as leading the revitalisation of the new nuclear programme.

“Together with suppliers and our partners we have created a supply chain ready to build Hinkley Point C, which will help the UK meet its future need for reliable low carbon electricity.”

The announcement came days after the UK government confirmed a £2 billion financing guarantee for Hinkley Point C, which de Rivaz called a clear sign of the government’s commitment to Hinkley Point C.

“The government’s determination to bring about a renewal of infrastructure and to attract inward investment to the UK are demonstrated by this good news,” de Rivaz said. “It is further progress towards a final investment decision on a project which will provide reliable, affordable low carbon electricity for decades. We welcome the government’s support for the industrial participation by EDF and its Chinese partners.”

To find out more about supplying the Hinkley Point C project:

Nuclear Now: current supply chain opportunities

Tuesday 20 October, AMRC Knowledge Transfer Centre.

VR reactorNow fully booked. The Special Metals Forum and Nuclear AMRC present an exclusive one-day event for the special metals sector and associated engineering industries in the UK.

Nuclear Now will help companies to understand the nuclear energy sector and its opportunities for the special steels industries.

The event includes:

  • Overview of the UK nuclear industry – Peter Haslam, Nuclear Industry Association.
  • Steel products required for nuclear power stations – Martin Ride, Nuclear AMRC.
  • Approvals and accreditations – Peter Faccenda, National Skills Academy Nuclear Manufacturing.
  • Opportunities in nuclear decommissioning – Ron Gorham, NDA
  • Commercial opportunities at Sellafield – David Magrath, Sellafield Ltd.
  • Fit For Nuclear case study – Philip Vaughan, Darchem Engineering.
  • Small modular reactors and their supply chain – Professor Juan Matthews, Dalton Nuclear Institute.
  • Export opportunities in the nuclear power industry – Andrew Stevens, UKTI.
  • Tour of the Nuclear AMRC.
  • Networking and exhibition.

Download the flyer for more details, including the agenda for the day.

The Special Metals Forum is the regional group of trade associations and companies operating in the steel and associated manufacturing industries, based in and around the Yorkshire & Humber region. The Forum includes UK Steel and the British Stainless Steel Association, and links to the regional EEF Growth Forum. The group also includes UK Trade & Investment, which promotes the export of goods and services from the UK.

For more information, contact