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Amec Foster Wheeler To Lead UK Government's Nuclear Reactor Research

Fri, 28th Jul 2017 08:05


LONDON (Alliance News) - Amec Foster Wheeler PLC on Friday said it has handed a GBP2.9 million contract from the UK government to lead a "key" research programme that aims to use developments in digital technology to optimise the next generation of nuclear reactors.

The energy services firm, formed from the merger of Amec and Foster Wheeler in 2014 and currently in the process of being bought by peer John Wood Group PLC, will set up and run a UK Digital Reactor Design partnership that will use virtual engineering and high-performance computing to enhance the techniques used to design reactors and optimise their performance.

The contract was awarded by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, which also sponsors Innovate UK, which recently awarded Amec Foster Wheeler a contract to carry out research into manufacturing and materials technologies for the civil nuclear sector.

"I'm very pleased to have awarded virtual engineering, structural materials and nuclear design codes and standards contracts to Amec Foster Wheeler. Partnering with leading UK organisations in the nuclear industry will have a big part to play in helping deliver on our department's big initiatives, including the Clean Growth Plan and the Industrial Strategy," said UK Energy Minister Richard Harrington.

"The project is part of a broader effort to put UK industry at the forefront of developing Generation IV and small modular reactors, which could play a key role in meeting the UK's future energy needs. The aim is to achieve a step change in the way that nuclear design, development and construction programmes are delivered," added Amec Foster Wheeler.

Amec Foster Wheeler is being supported by partners and sub-contractors from industry, academia and science, including the University of Liverpool's Virtual Engineering Centre, the Hartree Centre, National Nuclear Laboratory, Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC, EDF Energy, the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London.

Professor Eann Patterson from the University of Liverpool, also partnering on the project, will be the lead academic of the research programme.

"We see the Digital Reactor Design programme as 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," Patterson said.

The contract award comes as Amec Foster Wheeler is in the midst of merging with peer John Wood in a GBP2.20 billion deal that is expected to take place in the fourth quarter. Amec Foster Wheeler only last month made a decision to retain its European nuclear business after consulting John Wood, but is still pushing to offload its North American nuclear unit.

The North American nuclear operations are nominal within the wider company, adding a trading profit of just GBP1.0 million and revenue of GBP83.0 million to Amec Foster Wheeler's 2016 results.

What's more, Amec Foster Wheeler is being investigated by the UK Serious Fraud Office about possible offences related to corruption and bribery related to its past relationship with Monaco-based Unaoil SAM, which has been being probed by the SFO for suspected fraud, bribery and money laundering since July 2016.

That probe into Unaoil also hit oil services provider Petrofac Ltd, forcing the resignation of its chief operating officer.

By Joshua Warner; joshuawarner@alliancenews.com; @JoshAlliance

Copyright 2016 Alliance News Limited. All Rights Reserved.

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