The University of Liverpool’s Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC) has been appointed as the academic lead partner in a £2.9M research programme to set up and run a UK Digital Reactor Design partnership.

Supported by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and led by Amec Foster Wheeler, the overall aim of the programme is to achieve a step change in the way that nuclear design, development and construction projects are delivered.

The programme will use expertise and facilities of the VEC to improve the design and build of new nuclear reactors, and to optimise their performance during their operating life.

The VEC provides expertise in the development and integration of virtual engineering technologies and has a track record in delivering bespoke solutions across a range of sectors including automotive, aerospace, energy, oil and gas.

Over the next two years, experts from the VEC will work on the first phase development of a digital framework which will provide a more cost effective, innovative, efficient way to develop and build nuclear reactor facilities. This will created the “backbone” for future development of designing a `digital twin’ reactor which can be explored ahead of being used in the real world thus reducing the risks involved.

Liverpool engineer, Professor Eann Patterson, who is the academic lead for the programme, said: “This the first stage in transforming the way that the UK nuclear industry will design and build new facilities and strengthen capabilities across the sector for the future.”

Professor Ken Badcock, Executive Pro Vice Chancellor for the University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering, added:  “We are proud that the University of Liverpool has been selected to be the main contractor to Amec Foster Wheeler in this prestigious project which will combine the latest digital techniques, advanced multi-physics modelling and simulation expertise to support future energy security for the UK.

“The Virtual Engineering Centre is a leader in delivering integrated virtual engineering frameworks to a range of industrial sectors and this project builds upon previous successful collaborative R&D programmes such as GAMMA within the nuclear sector.”

The Virtual Engineering Centre is supported by nuclear expert colleagues, Professor Bruno Merk and Dr Edoardo Patelli, from the University’s Institute for Risk and Uncertainty who will provide specialist knowledge to inform the framework design to meet industry and regulatory requirements.

Other partners in the programme include the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Hartree Centre, the National Nuclear Laboratory, Rolls-Royce, EDF Energy, Cambridge University, and Imperial College London.

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