Small firms are being urged not to rule themselves out as potential beneficiaries of the new civil nuclear programme because of fears that meeting the industry’s stringent standards might be too hard.
“As you move down the supply chain, the quality requirements become more generic,” explains Nuclear AMRC chief Mike Tynan.
“Not every person needs to understand all the codes and standards and in many cases the contractor will help them. We don’t want smaller organisations that are thinking about participating to see it as a daunting challenge.”
Although everyone thinks about the high value, hi-tech safety critical components that make up the ‘nuclear island’ – the reactor and ancillary equipment, that is only one part of a nuclear plant.
There’s also the ‘turbine island’ – more like a conventional power station, where steam, created by the heat spins turbines to generate electricity – which needs to be built and a host of other works.
In the early stages, as much as 35 per cent could be civil work like pouring concrete and there are roadways and services to install, which are not necessarily that different from any other major construction project.
Mike Tynan doesn’t underestimate the challenges for UK industry in winning a major slice of nuclear power station contracts, but he believes that is possible with the Nuclear AMRC’s help.
“It’s a long time since we built a new nuclear power station – coming up for 20 years – and the challenge for the UK supply chain is to demonstrate to the technology providers and plant developers that we can compete on cost, scheduling and quality,” says Mr Tynan.
“We can help at the Nuclear AMRC. We have an expert understanding of the requirements and we can help firms understand what they may or may not need to do.”
The Nuclear AMRC is playing a dual role in helping firms of all sizes to win a share of nuclear contracts.
On the one hand, it has developed the Fit4Nuclear programme which helps companies understand what standards they need to achieve to win contracts to work on both new and existing nuclear plants.
The Nuclear AMRC is also helping advanced manufacturers to develop their capabilities and boost their competitiveness, in some cases by developing faster, better manufacturing techniques and processes.
“We have close to 70 employees at the Nuclear AMRC and will ramp that up to 120 in the next six to nine months,” says Mike Tynan.
“What’s more, there must be thousands of man years of advanced manufacturing expertise on the Advanced Manufacturing Park and we are creating the connection between that and the nuclear industry.
“I want to see those thousands of years of experience going into developing new civil nuclear plants.”