Highlights from Paris

1 August 2018

The global nuclear industry gathered in Paris in June for the largest nuclear exhibition of the year. NEI reports on some of the central themes and news from the show.

FRANCE’S MINISTER OF ECONOMY, BRUNO Le Marie, opened the World Nuclear Exhibition 2018 Paris on June 26 by reinforcing the importance of the nuclear industry for France saying that it is an “essential” component of the energy mix for the long term. France currently has 58 operating nuclear reactors and an EPR under construction at Flamanville 3. In 2017, nuclear accounted for 71% of France’s electricity production.

The nuclear industry supports 220,000 highly qualified jobs in France, making it the country’s third-largest industrial sector. The sector also generates annual revenues of about €50 billion ($58bn), with around a fifth of this coming from electricity exports.

Le Marie stressed the need for French government to continue to invest in the nuclear sector. He said €10bn had been invested in recent years, which shows the confidence the French state has in nuclear power.

Nuclear will be essential for “security of supply, competitiveness and sustainability,” Le Marie said, adding that electricity in France currently costs around 40% less than in neighbouring Germany, which intends to phase out nuclear energy completely by 2022.

The minister also dismissed concerns that nuclear industry was under threat by additional investment in renewables. “France can accelerate the diversification of its generation mix with renewables without weakening its nuclear industry,” he said.

Despite this message from the French government, the nuclear industry is facing economic challenges on a global scale in new build, operation and decommissioning fields. The UK nuclear sector deal also unveiled in late June recognised this, with government and industry pledging to drive down the cost of nuclear new build projects by 30%, and the cost of decommissioning by 20% by 2030. The digital transformation that is now underway in the nuclear sector offers opportunities to reduce costs while improving quality, efficiency and safety of existing installations. Further, it can help attract the next generation of engineers and technicians.

Digital developments

Exhibitors at the WNE displayed a range of innovations from modelling and simulation, to robotics, drones and augmented reality tools that could help with this transformation. Many cooperation agreements were signed during the event, particularly on the theme of digitalisation.

On 26 June, Rolls-Royce and China General Nuclear Power Corporation signed a cooperation agreement to jointly develop and sell instrumentation and control systems for nuclear power plants in the international market.

According to a statement Rolls-Royce and CGN subsidiary CTEC, a provider of distributed control systems, intend to integrate their I&C technologies and expertise on selected projects in China and abroad. The companies have “committed to release a new DCS platform” made from a combination of their existing digital and analogue technologies (Spinline® and Hardline for Rolls-Royce, FirmSys and FitRel for CTEC). The deal also lays the foundations for exploring the further development of new joint technologies.

Russia’s ASE, the engineering division of state nuclear corporation Rosatom, and France-based inspection and certification body Bureau Veritas, signed a memorandum of understanding providing for the development of a strategic partnership in the development of digital platforms.

The MOU aims to improve the efficiency of supervision of nuclear plants and other industrial facilities by regulatory bodies. It envisages the joint development of a digital platform to assess the compliance and regulatory oversight of the development of international projects using VVER technologies (including projects in Finland, Hungary, Turkey, Egypt, India, and China), and to assess the possibilities of expanding the platform.

“Digital interaction with inspection and supervisory bodies within a single platform will significantly increase the transparency, speed and efficiency of certification and licensing processes,” said Ivan Borisov, ASE senior vice president for development. “The unification of our efforts will allow creation of innovative technologies to ensure efficient and reliable operation of nuclear power plants on the world market.”

French group EDF also signed an MOU with Russian counterpart Rosatom to work together on the development of innovative products and solutions for the competitiveness and safety of nuclear plants. The potential collaborative projects include the development of additive technologies, energy storage, digitalisation and modelling as well as cooperation on fast neutron reactors. EDF also inked a 20-year agreement with Dassault Systémes and Capgemini for support in the digitalisation of its plant engineering projects. The deal will see EDF using Dassault’s 3DExperience platform to design digital twins of nuclear plants in the construction or operational phase. Meanwhile, Capgemini will provide consulting, technology and systems integration services.

EDF also signed a series of cooperation agreements in the field of nuclear decommissioning and waste management, which it estimated would be worth €200bn ($232bn) by 2050.

A partnership agreement between EDF and French firm Veolia covers the development of a radioactive waste vitrification process and work to design an “industrial prototype for the reliable dismantling of graphite reactors.” Another agreement with the UK state-owned Nuclear Decommissioning Authority also lays the foundations for cooperation on the decommissioning of 27 graphite magnox reactors in the UK.

EDF also inked agreements with French nuclear fuel cycle company Orano “seeking to develop a joint range of solutions for the decommissioning of the Monju fast- breeder reactor in Japan” and with Finland’s Fortum “seeking to develop joint decommissioning and radioactive waste management solutions on the Nordic market.”

Separately, EDF announced the acquisition of Oreka Solutions, a company specialising in digital 3D simulation solutions for nuclear decommissioning. EDF Group, through its subsidiary EDF New Business, bought Oreka Solutions in May, becoming the majority shareholder with 89.7%. “This acquisition allows EDF to continue its digital transformation,” a company statement said. Oreka Solutions has developed a digital tool, Demplus for Nuclear, which aims to optimise work in industrial and nuclear environment using 3D simulation, immersive and virtual realities as well as powerful calculation codes.

The WNE also saw French-based international engineering group Assystem sign partnership agreements with four startups specialising in the digital and new technologies for the nuclear industry.

Assystem entered into a partnership with Saagie – a company that proposes a converged platform that supports the storage, processing, analysis and management of disparate data. The partnership hopes to optimise the engineering and operation phases of nuclear projects by proposing data-guided maintenance services using the latest artificial intelligence technologies. Assystem and Cosmo Tech have also teamed up to provide augmented intelligence for managing complex nuclear projects, while Assystem and REBIM have joined forces to develop open data architecture for nuclear projects. Finally, Assystem and SPARTE have signed a partnership agreement on Building Information Modelling (BIM) that paves the way for the first smart infrastructure. The alliance hopes to develop high value-added solutions including, immersive and collaborative design review, digital and immersive training, secure, real-time data management, augmented mobility of on-site support resources, real-time 3D interactive visualisation, modular testing and certification, real-time communications and oversight.

Speaking on the sidelines of the WNE, Stéphane Aubarbier, chief operating officer of Assystem told NEI that Assystem’s strategy in digital is entirely focused on how to make projects faster and how to save on costs.

“Our digital strategy is to establish tools that allow management of the data during the whole project,” he said, adding that “switching from document management to data management can save 20-30% of the hours required to define a project.”

Aubarbier said Assystem has two main axes for innovation: digitalisation and construction modularity. On the final day of the WNE, Assystem inked a MOU with the UK’s Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) to collaborate on joint research projects involving advanced modular reactors, and other innovative nuclear technologies.

The joint research project will explore synergies between Assystem’s capabilities in advanced systems engineering and digital asset management, and Nuclear AMRC’s research into novel manufacturing technologies. “Having more modular construction is one way to reduce schedule and CAPEX,” Aubarbier said.  

France’s minister of economy, Bruno Le Marie, opening the World Nuclear Exhibition 2018 in Paris

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