Counting the cost of Japan’s tragedy

The steelwork for the new Nuclear AMRC has been completed and exterior cladding is now being fitted.
The steelwork for the new Nuclear AMRC has been completed and exterior cladding is now being fitted.
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The fall out from Japan’s nuclear disaster reached Sheffield yesterday, forcing two keynote speakers to pull out of the Global Manufacturing Festival: Sheffield’s headline conference.

Mike Tynan, vice president of nuclear reactor builder Westinghouse and Keith Parker, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, both arrived in the city to speak at the Festival’s Manufacturing Convention.

But, shortly before the Convention began, they were heading back to London to respond to issues arising from the disaster at the 40 year old Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, following the earthquake which hit Japan last week.

Speaking in their stead, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce acting executive director, Richard Wright, expressed confidence that the civil nuclear industry and its potential suppliers among the Sheffield City Region’s advanced manufacturers, would still see the much predicted expansion.

“The question after last week is what is going to happen to the nuclear build programme. It is my belief it is going to continue, although there will be some delay,” said Mr Wright, who spent much of his business career in jobs linked to the nuclear industry.

Without new nuclear power stations, the world would face an energy shortage. Health and safety, design and appraisal systems might be tightened up, but that was to the advantage of firms from the Sheffield City region.

“Our strength is in delivering solutions to design engineers’ problems,” said Mr Wright. “We want an environment that is always demanding more, that always wants technological solutions. We rely on our markets continually developing and asking us for new solutions.”

Mr Wright said civil nuclear power would remain a massive market, despite the Japanese disaster, worth around $2,000 billion and involving the building of more than 300 power stations world wide. He highlighted the importance of the investment being made in the new Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, currently under construction at the Advanced Manufacturing Park and agreements signed only last week by French nuclear power plant developer Areva, the Nuclear AMRC and Rolls Royce.

Areva’s strategic partnership with Rolls Royce will see the aerospace giant make complex components for Areva nuclear power stations. The deal with the Nuclear AMRC will involve it identifying potential UK suppliers for Areva, using its Fit For Nuclear (F4N) programme, which looks at key areas of business operation and performance and tells a company whether it has the potential to supply the nuclear industry and what measures it needs to take to meet the industry’s requirements.