UK nuclear R&D projects secure funding
A project to develop robotic snakes fitted with lasers for use in nuclear power plants, as well as one to produce cast reactor coolant pumps, are among those that will benefit from recently announced funding from the UK government. On 26 March, the UK government published a new industrial strategy setting out detailed plans that will enable the country to make the most of opportunities for economic growth in the nuclear energy sector at home and abroad. At the same time, £18 million ($28 million) of support was awarded to 35 nuclear research and development (R&D) projects.
A non-laser fitted snake-arm robot inspecting beneath a reactor
(Image: OC Robotics)
One of the projects to receive major investment is Bristol-based OC Robotics, who was awarded £5.8 million ($8.9 million) for its LaserSnake2 project, which will focus on the development of long-reach snake-arm robots and laser cutting optics, both for use in air and underwater. The LaserSnake robot has the potential to be used in a decommissioning role in dismantling vessels, support structures and pipe work.
OC Robotics is joined in the £8 million ($12 million)collaborative R&D project by partners the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), Laser Optical Engineering, TWI and ULO Optics. The outstanding cost of the project will be met by industry.
NNL business leader Alan Grant said, “The LaserSnake2 technology has solid potential both inside and outside the nuclear sector. It will come into its own in applications requiring work to be carried out in confined spaces.” The LaserSnake2 project will run from 2013 to 2016.
Meanwhile, engineering company Sheffield Forgemasters has secured two funding grants worth over £2 million ($3 million) for projects to boost its nuclear power capabilities and expertise.
The company received a grant of just over £1 million ($1.5 million) towards a £2.1 million ($3.2 million) project with TWI and the University of Sheffield to produce a cast reactor coolant pump design that would be cheaper to produce than the current forged designs.
Forgemasters CEO Graham Honeyman commented, “It is my belief that the skills and resources required for the UK to lead the world in civil nuclear are right here, but we need to be better than any other nation to succeed. This funding allows us to make investment where progression demands it.”