Research conducted by the Nuclear Graphite Research Group (NGRG) at the University of Manchester (UoM) has been instrumental in addressing the problem of safe continued operation of the UK’s ageing advanced gas-cooled, graphite-moderated (AGR) nuclear reactors. Analysis developed and conducted by the NGRG has enabled the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) to robustly challenge the position of the licensee and ensure nuclear safety to enable the continued operation of AGRs for up to an additional 10 years. Independent modelling of graphite core degradation using software developed at Manchester (ManUMAT) combined with novel statistically-based models and experimental validation has enabled the structural analysis of graphite reactors to be translated into environmental and economic impacts, specifically:
- Extending the operational lifetime of nuclear reactors resulting in direct economic impacts of GBP1,500,000,000 per annum, generating supply chain income within the UK of GBP650,000,000 per annum and underpinning 2,000 jobs.
- Avoidance of more than 42 million tonnes CO2 emissions (>17 million per annum, vs combined cycle gas turbines) through the provision of ~7.7 GW net of low carbon emission electricity, which corresponds to the equivalent of ~50 million cars taken off-road per year.
- Research by NGRG on the life extension has indirectly led to saving up to GBP745,000,000 in excise from the Climate Change Levy in the UK.
- Capability growth and transfer of essential skills to the nuclear sector, leading to >GBP2,000,000 external funding investment in the prevention of AGR core degradation.