The Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC) has been awarded a contract to support Phase 2 of the Government’s Digital Reactor Design (DRD) nuclear research programme.

The £3.6 million project, led by global project, engineering and technical services company Wood, is funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), to bring together experts from industry and academia to demonstrate cost savings from concept design, construction, operation and decommissioning of nuclear power reactors.

VEC, part of the University of Liverpool’s Institute for Digital Engineering and Autonomous Systems – IDEAS, will be working to further develop the digital framework to support future nuclear reactor build.

Phase 1 of the DRD programme demonstrated an effective proof of concept by developing a computer-simulated design and management platform, positioning the UK as a world leader in this area.

The focus of Phase 2 is to implement new tools and disruptive technologies in a digital framework, utilising real-life case studies and applications to demonstrate improved efficiency, enable supply chain collaboration and ultimately deliver cost-savings and a cultural change across the industry.

Konstantin Vikhorev, Simulation Team Leader at VEC, said: “Being awarded this project shows strong recognition to our team’s capability in developing digital frameworks to support collaboration, design and improve operation.

“When delivering complex national projects such as this, systems integration is key. The framework provides an opportunity for project partners to combine their capabilities, it will ultimately offer an infrastructure for collaboration for organisations across the whole sector.”

Principal Investigator at the University of Liverpool, Professor Eann Patterson, said: “This project has already seen huge success in reviewing and mapping existing cross-discipline design and modelling capabilities, proving the concept for a new and better way of designing nuclear power reactors.

“We’re looking forward to working together with our partners in this next phase to further develop the digital framework across the design and operational lifecycle of nuclear plant to support collaboration in this complex industrial sector and achieve the Phase 2 project objectives which include strengthen capabilities across the sector for the future.”

The Digital Reactor Design programme is part of a broader effort to put UK industry at the forefront of developing Generation IV and small modular reactors, which could provide the UK with secure and affordable energy and help meet carbon reduction targets.

John Stairmand, Technical Director at Wood, said: “The University of Liverpool and its Virtual Engineering Centre helped us achieve all Phase 1 outputs in the development of a digital framework. Their specialist expertise has been invaluable in helping us to secure Phase 2 of this programme.”

Phase 2 will:

  • Further develop the Phase 1 integrated digital framework to support future nuclear reactor build, from design through to decommissioning
  • Provide infrastructures and architecture to enable users across the nuclear life cycle to collaborate between sites, operate digital twins, integrate analysis codes and computer-aided design, provide innovative solutions to manage ‘big data’, and ultimately to achieve real economic benefits through nuclear virtual engineering
  • Support the establishment of a strong UK nuclear manufacturing and materials supply chain
  • Demonstrate benefits in innovative, collaborative networks, economic cost savings, accuracy, safety and reliability
  • Help to ensure that the UK has a secure and resilient energy system while keeping energy bills as low as possible.

The Digital Reactor Design core team, supported by partners and sub-contractors from industry, academia and science includes; Wood, EDF Energy, Rolls-Royce, National Nuclear Laboratory, and the University of Liverpool’s Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC).