Construction work begins on new submarine reactor core facilities at Rolls-Royce in Derby

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has given permission for Rolls-Royce Marine Power Operations Ltd to commence the first phase of construction for a major rebuilding programme for the company’s Nuclear Fuel Production Plant at Raynesway in Derby.

The new facilities at Raynesway are intended to manufacture highly enriched uranium fuel  modules and reactor cores for future nuclear powered submarines for the Royal Navy, including the successors to the current Vanguard class submarines which carry Trident nuclear weapons.

ONR gave the go-ahead in February for construction work to begin on the ‘Manufacturing Facility First Build’ phase of the programme – the first stage of the Core Production Capability regeneration project which is being funded by the Ministry of Defence at Raynesway.  ONR has approved construction of civil structures and services for a new Clean Shop, which will handle clad reactor fuel, during this phase of the project.

The regulator concluded that the planned construction activities “present no immediate risk to nuclear safety”, although a number of “weaker links” in the case were identified.  Concerns about whether structural failings in piling could result in a catastrophic failure of the building were resolved to ONR’s satisfaction during discussions with Rolls-Royce, and “work is ongoing” to address uncertainties in flooding and seismic safety cases.

The Clean Shop will be part of a new Core Manufacturing Facility at Raynesway which will replace existing production buildings and is eventually intended to produce reactor fuel cores for the Navy’s nuclear powered submarines.  It will be built as part of a phased revamp of the Raynesway site which is scheduled to take place over the next decade.

Last year the Ministry of Defence announced a £1.1 billion contract with with Rolls-Royce Power Engineering to support the future production of nuclear propulsion plants for the Royal Navy’s future submarine fleet.  £500 million will be used to rebuild the Raynesway site, with a further £600 million allocated to building new submarine reactor cores.  Rolls Royce will continue to maintain and operate its existing reactor core manufacturing facility in Derby while phased construction of a new manufacturing facility takes place in parallel.

Construction work on the new facility commenced a week before ONR formally gave agreement for work to begin, when  Vice Admiral Sir Andrew Mathews, the Royal Navy’s Chief of Material, conducted a ground-breaking ceremony at the Raynesway site.


Emergency exercise

An emergency exercise to test muster arrangements at the Raynesway manufacturing site took place in January, and was considered by the Office for Nuclear Regulation to be a good demonstration of a new purpose-built facility replacing previous muster points in the former Operations Management Centre at Raynesway, which has now been demolished as part of the site upgrade programme.  An emergency exercise that took place at the Neptune site in October 2013 was considered not to have adequately met the exercise objectives and is to be repeated by Rolls-Royce.

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