Yorkshire business insider march 2016 insider media ltd electricity notes


“The ultimate prize is £2bn,” says the chief executive of the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC). “I want £2bn worth of small modular reactor (SMR) manufacturing in Sheffield, with the pressure vessels made at Forgemasters, all the local companies doing the innovation and support, development done in the AMRC and me helping a major technology player build a new SMR factory on the airport. That’s the answer.”

Tynan’s role at the Nuclear AMRC, run by the University of Sheffield, is the culmination of 41 years’ experience in the industry; the last two decades in senior leadership. As the former chief executive of Westinghouse UK, he was responsible for developing and licensing reactor technology in the UK and ran the country’s nuclear fuel manufacturing facility in Lancashire. He says: “I had the licence to run nuclear plants, but I am not an engineer, I am not a physicist, nor a chemist. electricity kwh But I do have four decades of experience, 25 years in direct plant operations roles.”

While some businesses in the region are operating in the nuclear industry, globally there are “only probably 60,000” people employed, 400 or so from Yorkshire”. Why Sheffield: “The big value proposition is that in reality there are thousands of man years of advanced manufacturing and we want to focus that innovation capability into the nuclear industry. We are trying to apply the expertise and capability for innovation in advanced manufacturing to the challenges in the nuclear industry. The first place you naturally go for innovative solutions is Sheffield.”

Tynan launches into an hour-long explanation, which culminates in the assertion that these challenges can only be overcome through advanced manufacturing. “They aren’t unique to the UK nuclear industry,” Tynan says. “They’re global. In helping British companies operate in the civil nuclear industry we are talking about participating in a global industry.”

There are 460 nuclear reactors in the world, only 15 are in the UK. The opportunity lies in a number of different “fleets” as Tynan refers to them: the industry needs technology to extend the lifespan of the existing energy producing plants; speed up the nuclear decommissioning programmes, which cost the taxpayer £3.7bn a year; and to develop a new fleet of nuclear reactors.

The benefits of getting this right tick many boxes for local and national government: the development of local power generation creates security and sustainability of supply; it supports the transition to a low-carbon economy; and the deployment of the technology will create highly skilled, high-value jobs. Oh, and it keeps the UK at the “top table” of nuclear research.

“All the nuclear power plants in the UK are cash cows,” says Tynan. “The operating costs are limited, one pin of uranium is akin to 3,600 tonnes of coal – in the long run is incredibly cheap. As long as the fleet keeps going then they are making good money – operating them is cheap. Extending the life of these is important, and that is one avenue where we can help.”

Tynan turns to a flip chart and spends 45 minutes explaining new nuclear. gas knife lamb Through the 1990s and into the 2000s the capital costs of new nuclear were so high that no investor appetite existed. gas nozzle stuck in car Development slowed further during the recession as a reduction in industrial activity meant lower usage and, thus, the cost of energy. Tynan says: “Adding in risk in contingency, your overnight capital costs, plus contingency capital costs, plus financing, it can double the cost of a scheme.”

Further complexities arose: the Fukushima disaster led EON and RWE to sell off nuclear assets as the German government announced a plan to shut all nuclear operations by 2022. Tynan details a convoluted process which EDF, Centrica, RWE, EON, SSE, Iberdrola and GDF Suez (later Energie) have been through as they, between a number of joint venues, looked to develop sites at Hinkley, in Anglesey, Aldborugh in Gloucester and Moorside adjacent to Sellafield.

EDF began building a nuclear plant in Finland at Olkiluoto; after laying the foundations in one continuous pour of millions of tonnes of concrete, the specification was found to be wrong. Tynan says: “They dug out the foundations then poured the base mat, which has to be a continuous pour of concrete in a reinforced structure – it takes days. Later, when the concrete was tested, they found it was the wrong spec and had to dig it all out – millions of tonnes of concrete wasted, billions of euros spent.”

“The problem is that when you come to put a reactor on the site, the design will change. The generic design approval details the physics, the safety case. Now you have to work out the landscape, the atmosphere, the distance from the sea, the chances of someone flying an aeroplane into it, the chances of an earthquake. After you agree something is safe, you then have to agree it is safe to put it where you want. The generic design can take four or five years – you have to pay the regulator for every hour. So £100m might get you there; it might get you to a design acceptance confirmation.”

Tynan explains: “These overseas reactors will have little or no UK content in the nuclear and turbine island – all the smart bits of kits that generate everything, all the high-value components, will not be made in the UK. Why? We can’t, we haven’t got the capacity, the factories, we couldn’t do it if we wanted to, and the supply chains already exist because they must for the GDAs.”

Tynan adds: “The others are huge and require a stick build process – everything has to be taken to site and built. c gastronomie plateaux repas With SMRs we can build one in the factory here, drop it on the back of a truck, transport it to where it needs to be, connect it up and turn it on. “A number of factors start to come to the surface; flexibility of build, flexibility of location, flexibility of installation. They are smaller so the safety case is easier to make, thus the licensing might be simpler and less costly. k gas constant Ease of licencing could be another factor to consider.”

Tynan cites companies not investing more than five per cent of their enterprise value in a single project – even a £100bn business couldn’t invest in a £60bn development. “All of a sudden, the £2bn SMR sits on a balance sheet, you don’t need the government nor the Chinese; they can be funded in the UK and built in Sheffield by a host of Sheffield companies. It’s 25 times smaller yet produces a fifth of the power output and costs 30 times less.”

The “big is better” mentality has finally been challenged: economies of scale have dictated the development of the market but that can be changed from Sheffield. “Economies of scale dictate that you may as well build big generators because you get more output and more returns more quickly,” Tynan says. “But the value in the SMRs is in economies of volume – the more you build, the better the price you get them for.”

A Techo-Economic Assessment followed, the results of which are expected in the spring. The Nuclear AMRC received £4.5m funding and is looking at the viability of the technology and whether they can be manufactured economically. Once the report findings come back, part of the £250m will be allocated to take current plans into development. Tynan says if all goes to plan, with three years of manufacturing development and a six-year build programme, the first SMR could be coming off a production line in Sheffield by 2025/26.

“The research funding enhances the university’s reputation and gives some fantastic opportunities to young people, but I want the reactor built here because that creates thousands of sustainable high-value jobs for lifetimes – you will make them for the world, and then once you’ve made them you’ll service them, and after that you’ll make new ones.”