The projects will develop machining techniques to reduce the risk of component failure over a reactor’s lifetime, and investigate processes to create high-integrity reactor components from metal powder.

‘These two projects will apply cutting-edge machining and materials technologies to the civil nuclear industry, to drive up quality and lifetime performance for reactor operators, and help European manufacturers take a global lead in the sector,’ says Alan McLelland, projects director at the Nuclear AMRC.

One project, entitled PowderWay, will investigate powder metallurgy techniques for nuclear components.

Processes such as hot isostatic pressing (HIP), 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.

Approval required

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.

Partners in the €360,000, 18-month project include Areva, EDF’s research laboratory, French nuclear suppliers group PNB, French energy commission CEA, and Swedish materials research group Swerea.

The second project, called McScamp, will develop a deeper understanding of the factors which cause stress corrosion cracking in nuclear steels.

The Nuclear AMRC is also involved in another new European-funded project, MMTech, to develop new ways of working with an advanced alloy called gamma titanium aluminide. This alloy is of great interest to the aerospace sector because it is very strong and light, but is notoriously difficult to use in production.