Wood – which has offices at Sellafield and Whitehaven – has been appointed by the UK government to lead the second phase of a ground-breaking nuclear research programme.

Under a multi million pound contract from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), experts from industry and academia will use collaborative virtual engineering and high-performance computing to demonstrate significant cost savings in the design, construction, operation and decommissioning of nuclear power reactors.

Andrew Stephenson, the UK government’s Minister for Nuclear, said: “Using state-of-the-art virtual engineering and computing technology to design and build the next generation of nuclear reactors will position the UK at the cutting-edge of low-carbon energy innovation.

“Making simulations in a virtual world allows designers to take virtual risks, reducing design times and demonstrating cost savings across the nuclear life cycle, from design through to decommissioning. This is key to achieving the cost reduction targets in the Nuclear Sector Deal and part of our modern Industrial Strategy.”

Bob MacDonald, CEO of Wood’s Specialist Technical Solutions business, said: “This project has already been highly successful in proving the concept for a new and better way of designing and building nuclear power reactors.

“We’re looking forward to working with BEIS on the next stage and taking a very significant step towards achieving the cost reduction targets proposed by the UK Nuclear Sector Deal.”

The Digital Reactor Design programme 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.

Phase 1 of the Digital Reactor Design programme has successfully demonstrated a proof of concept by developing a computer-simulated design and management platform covering the whole nuclear life cycle, which is on the way to positioning the UK as a world leader in this area.

The focus of Phase 2 will be to implement digital tools in a software framework, utilising real project applications to demonstrate improved efficiency, enable supply chain collaboration and ultimately deliver a cultural change across the industry.

Wood’s nuclear business employs more than 1,300 people in the North West of England, mainly at Knutsford and Birchwood in Cheshire and at Sellafield and Whitehaven in Cumbria.