I have been at the Nuclear AMRC since October 2015, but I’ve been involved since the beginning. I was programme director for Rolls-Royce’s civil nuclear business, and we needed somewhere to develop manufacturing techniques to help deliver potential contracts.
Back in 2012/13, the centre was dominated by one customer responsible for 85 per cent of work. Those early years were about creating the physical assets and starting to think seriously about supply chain support.
Since then, Mike Tynan has spent a lot of time and effort getting the Nuclear AMRC into the fabric of the nuclear industry. Within the past year, we have diversified the customer base so we are no longer dominated by any one company, while increasing overall revenue. We have opened a new centre in Birkenhead for modules and local supply chain support. We are really well engaged with Sellafield, and see this as a great relationship for the future.
We still have a lot more to do. More than ever, the UK nuclear industry needs to work as one, building on the good things across the sector and not just re-inventing everything in silos. Consolidating procurement plans across the sector would help us all understand volumes, stimulate UK investment, and leverage economies of scale. Research needs to be targeted at today’s scope of work as well as future needs, to help companies make things at lower cost and with greater repeatability while meeting quality demands.
This efficiency needs to be fed back to the consumer – nuclear is competing with other energy sources and we can’t take anything for granted. We must start by showing that we can deliver current programmes in new build, decommissioning and submarines, and keep generating 21 per cent of the UK’s electricity at EDF’s 15 operational reactors.
To support this cross-sector approach, we are working with the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) to develop a sector deal as part of the new industrial strategy. This is one of five initial deals proposed by the secretary of state, Greg Clark, and was presented at the Nuclear Industry Council (NIC) in July. This is a once-in-a-generation chance to positively change our sector, with some real game-changing topics which were all agreed as sensible areas for development.
The new energy minister, Richard Harrington, and his team are now working with NIC members to develop the details for presentation to Clark later this year. We hope this will trigger new approaches for current and future technology development and intellectual property in the UK.
So what does all this mean for Nuclear AMRC? We are now in the performing phase of the centre’s life. We intend to deliver more in-depth supply chain development, providing very specific support to companies against real opportunities. This will link back to our facilities in Rotherham and Birkenhead, providing more tangible disruptive manufacturing research based on industry pull as well as innovation push. We also plan to develop bases in the UK’s key nuclear regions, providing localised support to reduce the burden on the supply chain.
There’s nothing in our name to say we only work with metal – we intend to develop our research into electrical controls and instrumentation, which make up a large part of the value of a reactor plant and which fall within UK scope.
We recognise that qualification of equipment is a vital part of UK companies winning work, and are working very closely with the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) to provide additional support for this and other areas. And of course, we will develop our work on modules, which we see as fundamental to reducing cost, and which we are just starting to address at our new facility.
We have lots to do at the Nuclear AMRC and, as the new chief executive, it really does excite me. I look forward to continuing to work with everyone here at the centre and all our members, partners and friends in the nuclear industry.