Nuclear specialist joins NW-focused drive to perfect new power source

Designs for U-Battery

Nuclear specialist Jacobs, with significant operations in Warrington and Manchester, is now involved, alongside other North West experts, in a project to develop a new power source.

Jacobs is providing cutting-edge technical support for two companies whose work developing new nuclear power reactors has secured government research funding.

The firm’s nuclear laboratories in Warrington will carry out research and development work into new technologies for advanced manufacturing qualification under contracts with U-Battery Developments and Westinghouse Electric Company U.K, which have successfully progressed to phase 2 of a competition run by the government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to promote technological innovation.

BEIS is investing £40m to develop designs for Advanced Modular Reactors (AMR) that will generate low-cost electricity by introducing novel cooling techniques and off-site factory fabrication.

The Government first announced funding for the U-Battery scheme, involving Birkenhead ship yard Cammell Laird, Cheshire nuclear fuel expert Urenco, and Manchester University, in June, 2018.

U-Battery is a micro modular nuclear reactor being designed to provide secure, low carbon embedded power at industrial sites and remote locations.

Jacobs’ critical mission solutions international senior vice president, Clive White, said: “Advanced nuclear technologies can provide low-cost electricity and more cost-effective hydrogen production, both of which will assist the UK’s transition to clean energy and a net zero carbon economy.

“BEIS is to be congratulated for its vision in encouraging innovation in nuclear reactor design, and we look forward to continuing our support for these efforts across a wide spectrum of research into materials performance and qualification, digital design and manufacturing techniques, and structural design codes and standards.”

For U-Battery, a modular reactor being developed by Urenco at its Capenhurst site, Jacobs will deploy its expertise in high temperature, gas-cooled reactor technology to lead concept design work on the reactor and primary systems, control, instrumentation and autonomous operation, as well as providing safety, environmental and human factors analysis and support.

For the Westinghouse lead-cooled fast reactor, Jacobs is carrying out structural materials, corrosion and mechanical testing, which are key technical issues for reactors operating at temperatures above 500°C.

Jacobs is also creating new experimental facilities for static corrosion, creep and fatigue testing with exposure to liquid lead at up to 800°C. The aim is to examine the effect on mechanical performance and to identify suitable structural materials for further studies by Westinghouse.

BEIS will also provice Jacobs with grant funding to develop innovative, technology-enabled mechanical testing methods so that advanced manufacturing technologies and materials can be accredited for use in future reactor plants.

This will advance the state-of-the-art methods by introducing non-contact capture and measurement systems, reducing both the numbers of tests required and the time needed for evaluation, and importantly, in a safer manner.

Meanwhile, Aquila Nuclear Engineering has been selected by the Sellafield Programme and Project Partners (PPP) to support the design and build of replacement nuclear laboratories at the Cumbria site.

Under an eight-year framework contract with an estimated value of £9m, Aquila and its sub-contractor, Jacobs, will modify and integrate complex, high precision analytical equipment into gloveboxes and shielded hot cells as part of the replacement analytical project.

Dave Barker, Acquila CEO, said: “We are delighted to have won this long term contract which not only allows us to provide high level engineering skills but also creates a platform to invest in our younger engineers joining the business and establish a presence in West Cumbria.”

Greg Willetts, vice president for technology and cyber solutions at Jacbos Critical Mission Solutions Internationa, said: “This appointment gives us the opportunity to combine complementary skills in chemistry, advanced instrumentation, engineering and nuclear shielding to deliver a world class analytical solution which will play a vital role in Sellafield’s mission to create a clean and safe environment for future generations.”

This is one of several major projects which are considered essential for the environmental clean up of Sellafield, the most complex nuclear site in the UK.