25 March 2015

Nuclear AMRC leads new research to improve manufacturing

The Nuclear AMRC is leading two new European research projects to develop advanced manufacturing technologies for the civil nuclear industry

The Nuclear AMRC is leading two new European research projects to develop advanced manufacturing technologies for the civil nuclear industry

The projects will develop machining techniques to reduce the risk of component failure over a reactor’s lifetime, and investigate processes to create high-integrity reactor components from metal powder.

“These two projects will apply cutting-edge machining and materials technologies to the civil nuclear industry, to drive up quality and lifetime performance for reactor operators, and help European manufacturers take a global lead in the sector,” says Alan McLelland, projects director at the Nuclear AMRC. “We are delighted to be working with some of Europe’s leading nuclear companies and research institutes to bring applied innovation to nuclear manufacturing.”

The first project is called McScamp (minimising nuclear component stress corrosion cracking through advanced machining parameters). The Nuclear AMRC will work with French reactor developer Areva and machining specialists at the Estonian University of Life Sciences’ Institute of Technology to improve the surface integrity and extend the life of machined steel components.

Reactor components including internal parts, pumps, tubes and piping have to operate in extreme conditions for 60 years or more. Their useful life can be shortened by a phenomenon called stress corrosion cracking, which becomes more likely if residual stresses and surface hardening are created in the component during its manufacture.

The McScamp team will develop a deeper understanding of the factors which cause these conditions in nuclear steels, and investigate advanced machining techniques such as dry machining and cryogenic cooling which can significantly improve surface integrity.

The research carried out during the €350,000, 18-month project should ultimately help reactor operators extend the life and reduce shutdown rates in their current fleet, as well as improve the quality and performance of parts produced for new reactors.

The second project, PowderWay, will investigate powder metallurgy techniques for nuclear components.

Processes such as hot isostatic pressing, additive manufacturing and spark plasma sintering can be used to create high-integrity, near-net shape parts from metal powder, avoiding the need to machine parts down from solid billets. Some of these techniques are already used in industries such as aerospace, but are not yet qualified and approved for civil nuclear applications.

The Nuclear AMRC will manage the industry-led project to assess the potential for these processes in the civil nuclear sector, and establish a strategy to move the most promising techniques into commercial production.

Partners in the €360,000, 18-month project include Areva, EDF’s research laboratory, French nuclear suppliers group PNB, French energy commission CEA, and Swedish materials research group Swerea.

McScamp and PowderWay are funded (pending due diligence) by the Nugenia nuclear industry association, with support from the European Commission’s framework programme for collaborative R&D.

The Nuclear AMRC is also involved in another new European-funded project, MMTech, to develop new ways of working with an advanced alloy called gamma titanium aluminide. This alloy is of great interest to the aerospace sector because it is very strong and light, but is notoriously difficult to use in production.

The Nuclear AMRC will investigate and develop additive manufacturing techniques for the alloy, using its 15kW diode laser cell and other facilities.

MMTech is led by the University of Sheffield AMRC and funded (pending due diligence) by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme for industry-led research and development.

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