The Duke of York officially opened the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Rotherham on Monday.
Work on the new 8,000 square metre research centre finished in 2011 but yesterday marked the formal opening of the centre for industry R&D.
His Royal Highness met with several senior representatives from industry in the region, including Sir Roger Bone, chairman of Boeing UK, whose company helped establish the neighbouring Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing, as well as representatives from Rolls-Royce, Tata Steel, machine tool supplier Mori Seiki, tooling suppliers Sandvik Comorant and Nikken and the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce.
On his fifth visit to the AMRC and Nuclear AMRC, the Duke also met with the first intake of apprentices at the Nuclear AMRC and spoke to them about their route to work and expectations for their apprenticeships.
He toured the 5,000 square metre workshop area, inspecting brand new manufacturing capabilities including the 27m TBT ML7000 deep-hole drilling centre and the adaptive robot cell which performs cutting operations around a workpiece at a fraction of the cost of larger, fixed machines.
The Royal opening and the scale of the investment, funded primarily by government through BIS, the Technology Strategy Board and ex-RDA Yorkshire Forward, as well as the European Regional Development Fund, represents a confidence boost to a nuclear industry in flux, following the decision by two utilities E.On and RWE npower to step down from the UK’s nuclear build programme.
Referring to the pressing need to plug the energy gap, the Duke endorsed nuclear power and emphasised the importance of having part of a global nuclear supply chain in the UK.
“Coming here, particularly to the Nuclear AMRC, is extremely important,” said His Royal Highness. “When we consider the future energy needs of the UK and the world, something is going to need to be done to supply the huge increase in the amount of energy we need.
“I suspect it doesn’t matter whether this country decides today not to have a nuclear industry itself, but in time it will matter. There has to be some part of the energy sector delivering nuclear. It’s not just about the UK; nuclear will be used globally. We must deliver at least some part of the suppy chain. The ability to harness the knowledge, skills and innovation of the UK in a facility like this is hugely important. ”
Professor Keith Ridgway CBE, the Centre’s programme director, said: “We are delighted that the Duke of York has agreed to open the Nuclear AMRC, which has a huge role to play in assisting UK manufacturers to enter the nuclear new build market, at home and globally. The support we provide will have a huge impact on the number and value of contracts that UK manufacturers can win.”
The purpose of Nuclear AMRC, located next to the University of Sheffield AMRC with Boeing between Sheffield and Rotherham, is to research ways to reduce cost and increase knowledge in nuclear component manufacture.
Managed by the University of Sheffield with support from The University of Manchester Dalton Nuclear Institute, the Centre has a range of highly capable, very expensive machines which will be used to perfect manufacturing techniques for nuclear industry parts, from pressure vessel housings to rods in nuclear reactors.
Work on components and machining techniques for other industry applications, including oil & gas and aerospace, will also be conducted here.
The equipment, including a house-sized StarragHeckert HEC 1600 horizontal boring centre and Mori Seiki NT660 multi-tasking machining centre, is all specified for large applications. The Starrag, for example, can operate on an eight-ton workpiece measuring 2.5m by 3.5m. The TBT deep-hole drilling machine will drill small-diameter holes in parts up to eight metres long.
As well as government funding and support from energy company EDF and the Nuclear Industry Association, the centre is funded by a two-tier corporate sponsorship system, similar to that used by the AMRC next door. Tier 1 partners of the Nuclear AMRC include Areva, Dassault Systemes, Hexagon Metrology, IT Welding Products, Mori Seiki, Nikon, Rolls-Royce, Tata Steel and Westinghouse.