A project which introduces ground-breaking technology that brings together machine learning, sensor development and advanced remote manufacturing processes has secured £1.3 million of government funding.

The University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Nuclear Research Centre is a partner in the Automated Welding Equipment System Inspection and Monitoring (AWESIM) project. It aims to deliver welding, weld inspection and potentially weld certification all in near real time by the early detection of flaws. 

The project, led by Babcock International Group’s civil nuclear business, Cavendish Nuclear, together with support from Doosan Babcock and some of the UK’s leading engineering research institutions, has secured £1.3 funding from the BEIS’ Energy Innovation Programme.

This will fund phase one of work on technology development and last until the end of March 2021, with the remainder of the funding from the industrial partners.

Once developed, the technology will enable detection of flaws as they occur, leading to potentially significant reductions in cost and time in the manufacturing of nuclear components.

Industry targets

The work is being driven by urgent UK industry targets to achieve a 30% cost reduction in nuclear new build along with savings of 20% in nuclear decommissioning projects by the year 2030.

The ANRC will also develop a non-destructive examination system with Derbyshire engineering company Peak NDT, as part of the project, while Cavendish Nuclear, working in collaboration Doosan Babcock, will provide engineering expertise to ensure the technology is industry-ready. As part of the project, a factory scale demonstrator will be built at the University of Sheffield’s Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre to allow integration and testing of the system.

Dr Charles MacLeod from Strathclyde’s Centre for Ultrasonic Engineering, which is delivering the pioneering research in the manufacture and sensor technologies, said:

This funding, secured through the BEIS Energy Innovation Programme, enables the University of Strathclyde and the ANRC to further translate its novel Automated In-Process Inspection research through the Technology Readiness Levels. 

“This research previously developed under the £2.6M EPSRC Prosperity Partnership will deliver impact and benefit directly to the nuclear industry at pace and at scale, ensuring that this critical UK engineering sector continues to advance with cutting-edge and high-value manufacturing and asset repair activities”.

Mark Gayfer, Professor of Practice and CEO of the ANRC said: “I am proud and delighted that Strathclyde and the Advanced Nuclear Research Centre is able to play a key role in developing this game changing technology. 

“As a leading international technological university, this ambitious and innovative project plays to our strengths and those of our team of cutting-edge researchers in this field and I look forward to seeing the impact of this research across the nuclear sector and beyond in the years ahead.”