University collaborates with Cammell Laird to keep nuclear energy project on track

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Merseyside shipyard and maritime engineering company Cammell Laird is harnessing virtual modelling expertise from the University of Liverpool to overcome project delivery challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis.

Faced with a potential delay to the risk-assessment phase of a vital, government-funded alternative energy project, Cammell Laird has called upon experts at the University of Liverpool’s Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC). The shipyard is currently in the second phase of delivery on the project, which will see it transfer its world-class experience of modular shipbuilding to the nuclear energy sector.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is sponsoring a series of studies through its Energy Innovation Programme to make alternative power generation systems, simpler, safer and more economical to deliver. As part of this initiative, Cammell Laird submitted a successful bid to develop an onsite facility that would enable it to design, construct, outfit and deliver modular power plant sections – focusing on fuel assemblies for sodium-cooled reactors.

The design and build of the facility’s assembly test module must incorporate a Hazard and Operability Analysis (HAZOP) to assess and address potential operational risks. Faced with being unable to carry out the required HAZOP tests due to coronavirus restrictions, Cammell Laird has turned to the team at the University of Liverpool’s VEC, who are devising detailed virtual 3D models of the reactor components. The 3D models will enable Cammell Laird’s engineering specialists to conduct their HAZOP analysis in the virtual world, avoiding delay and helping to ensure efficient delivery of the project.

Jamie Willgress, Energy Project Manager at Cammell Laird said, “It’s fantastic that we have this world-leading virtual modelling expertise on our doorstep, at the University of Liverpool. Collaborating with academia is an important part of our alternative energy project and the virtual engineering students have provided us with invaluable support during this challenging time.

“Keeping this project on track is exceedingly important to Cammell Laird as we strive to apply our decades of experience in modular shipbuilding to the nuclear sector by upskilling our workforce and developing a centre of excellence here in the North West.

“When integrated with design and manufacturing, modular construction will improve the delivery of nuclear projects to time and cost and will revolutionise the way nuclear plant is constructed.”

Dr Andy Levers, Technical Director at the VEC said: “The VEC is delighted to support Cammel Laird in this innovative government initiative. The VEC utilised our wide range of expertise and capabilities including digital frameworks, advanced simulation and visualisation, which were used for the planning, testing and validation of the virtual 3D reactor components before being run through a number of scenarios within a virtual environment. This has also led to the VEC developing a digital twin which can be used for further digital design, training and development.”

Once constructed and risk assessed, the nuclear plant modules designed and built by Cammell Laird will be transported to the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) in Workington for testing. The project is being delivered in collaboration with the NNL and GE-Hitachi.


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