The UK’s Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) is leading two new European research projects to develop advanced manufacturing technologies for the civil nuclear industry.

Over the next 18-months, the projects will develop machining techniques to reduce the risk of component failure over a reactor’s potential 60-year lifetime, and investigate processes to create high-integrity reactor components from metal powder.

The first project is called McScamp (minimising nuclear component stress corrosion cracking through advanced machining parameters). Over the course of this €350,000, 18-month project 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.

The McScamp team aims to develop a deeper understanding of the factors that cause stress corrosion cracking in nuclear steels. It will also investigate advanced machining techniques such as dry machining and cryogenic cooling which can significantly improve surface integrity. The ultimate aim of the project is to help reactor operators extend the lifetime of current reactor fleets and to 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. Other partners in the €360,000 project include AREVA, EDF’s research laboratory, French nuclear suppliers group PNB, the French energy commission CEA, and Swedish materials research group Swerea.

Both the 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 additive manufacturing techniques for an advanced alloy, gamma titanium aluminide. This project is led by the University of Sheffield AMRC and funded (pending due diligence) by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme.

Funding for Advanced Metal Casting Centre

In related news, the UK government has awarded £15 million to Brunel University London, which will unlock a further £62m of private sector support for a second phase of the new Advanced Metal Casting Centre. The AMCC will conduct research on nucleation, liquid metal engineering, the development of advanced materials and more efficient casting/processing technologies.

In the lab they can treat molten alloys either with ultrasound or melt shearing (rapid mechanical agitation) which increases the number of nucleation sites in a sample. This means the resultant crystals are smaller and more uniform so the alloy does not need post production heat or pressure treatments to reduce porosity. Initially the main uses of the technology are going to be in the automotive sector, but Prof Fan is confident that once the techniques are proven at industrial scale production they will be applied across all engineered structures involving metal.