Nuclear industry subcontractors get £31m from TSB-led group

Posted on 26 Mar 2013
A Starrag Heckert HE 1800 at the Nuclear AMRC research centre near Rotherham.

Business secretary Vince Cable has approved £31 million in new funding that aims to enhance the nuclear supply chain and help commercialise new technologies for a global nuclear energy market.

The funding will support 35 projects across the UK to develop new technologies for the construction, operation and decommissioning of nuclear power plants. The project expects to bring together over 60 experienced organisations including developers Laing O’Rourke, Sheffield Forgemasters and EDF. They will work alongside innovative small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and universities.

The £18 million joint funding between the Technology Strategy Board, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council is expected to leverage in an additional £13 million making the total value of the projects £31 million.

The business secretary said that there are “huge global opportunities that the UK is well placed to take advantage of in the nuclear industry. Our strong research base will help develop exciting new technologies that can be commercialised here and then exported across the globe.

“There are many innovative SMEs across the nuclear sector and this joint funding reinforces the government’s commitment to a nuclear strategy that will create jobs and growth.”

The announcement has been made alongside the publication of the Government’s nuclear industrial strategy, which sets out the objectives to develop a strong and sustainable nuclear industry in the UK.

Chief executive of the Technology Strategy Board Iain Gray said: “Delivering a new fleet of nuclear power stations to help meet the country’s energy needs a number of highly-sophisticated and leading edge technologies.

“That is good news for the economy because it will help us build a world-leading technology base that can provide solutions around the world as well as here in the UK.”

A test piece for a nuclear reactor being drilled at the Nuclear AMRC

One of the projects to receive major investment is a consortium led by Bristol-based OC Robotics, which has received nearly £6 million in funding.

The company is developing a technology called LaserSnake. It is a robot- controlled laser cutting tool that can be used underwater or above ground in confined and hazardous spaces. It could play a key role in nuclear decommissioning projects to dismantle vessels, support structures and pipe work.

The new funding will help OC Robotics to develop the technology to a full demonstration project which could lead to the UK being a world leader in the field. The technology also has the potential to be used across other sectors including the military and construction industries.

Dr Adrian Simper, the NDA’s Strategy and Technology Director, said: “We were extremely pleased with the level of interest in decommissioning projects from both established organisations and smaller, newer businesses.”

“This is an important announcement,” said EEF’s head of business environment Roger Salomone. “The UK is poised to make a big commitment to nuclear power, so we must take maximum advantage of the industrial opportunities. Investing in the supply chain now will help position British manufacturers to capitalise on major projects at home and growing markets abroad.”

The Technology Strategy Board forecasts that by 2030 there will be £930 billion invested globally in building new nuclear reactors and £250 billion in decommissioning those that are coming off-line.