There’s growing worldwide recognition that nuclear technology has the potential to deliver on the critical issues of energy security and carbon emission reduction. The industry is consequently enjoying support it hasn’t experienced for many decades and it is responding with greater commitment. Ultra Energy’s mission is to help our nuclear customers turn this once in a generation opportunity into sustained growth by aligning our reactor control and instrumentation solutions to their commercial requirements.
Nuclear must develop to compete effectively
Nuclear power has to compete with other energy sources. It still faces fossil fuels but renewable energy sources such as solar and wind are increasingly significant. Each has different qualities in terms of availability, carbon and affordability. The balance of qualities they offer relative to one another drive investment decisions reflecting national priorities at a given time.
All energy sources can be developed for gains in each of the three areas to enhance their competitiveness. Nuclear has intrinsic strengths in availability and carbon. A nuclear power station will generate electricity at a high and sustained rate for decades. While doing so it will emit no carbon and its whole-lifecycle carbon, including construction, is favourable. Efficiencies in these areas are of course positive but for nuclear to fulfil its potential, reducing its cost is where most effort must be placed.
Cost competitiveness must be locked-in permanently
For much of the last 40 years, to be blunt, nuclear has been cost uncompetitive, resulting in few nuclear power stations being built. However, carbon emission concerns have brought nuclear back into consideration. Recognition of its possible partnership with intermittent renewables have lent further impetus. Recent extreme volatility in fossil fuel prices has confirmed its place in energy policy. Its carbon and availability qualities have become valued just as its relative cost became competitive.
Global events have created a window of opportunity for nuclear power. For the industry to keep the window permanently open, it must change. Advances in availability and further carbon reductions are advantageous, but radically reducing the cost of nuclear is critical. If we read the marketing material of companies that are developing new capacity and reactor types, they invariably reflect this imperative in the claims they make about the cost advantages of their programmes.
Ultra Energy’s culture is aligned with the commercial roadmap of our customers
Ultra Energy is part of the nuclear industry. Our customers are nuclear companies. Their goal of placing nuclear power in a leading position within national energy policy is also our goal. The role we play is to deliver nuclear qualified safety systems in a way that works with the grain of our customers’ commercial roadmaps to support their attainment. Our expertise, quality and innovation culture is targeted at delivering our customers’ technical requirements at the same time as advancing programme performance and reducing costs.
How we address the causes of high costs in nuclear programme
To understand our commitment and ability to reduce costs, we need to consider how that plays out within the different phases of a nuclear programme: design, approval, manufacture, construction, operation and lifecycle services. Costs across programmes are attributable to people, processes and materials, not forgetting the abstract but very real concept of time, which tends to act as a cost multiplier.
Partnering with Ultra Energy very early on is a good way to reduce the risk of unplanned programme delays and cost overruns. We’ve great experience in our areas of expertise and a key part of our value is helping customers to take the right early design decisions, avoiding the creation of hard to fix, unintended consequences that only materialise later in the design journey. Our team is at home participating in complex nuclear design projects, we’ve a broad portfolio of proven technology and our culture means we are adept at rapidly adapting it to support our customers’ vision for their programmes.
Gaining regulatory approval for new designs incurs a significant process cost and will take many years, even if everything runs smoothly. While we can’t promise to make that time and cost go away, we do help our customers avoid both factors growing unnecessarily. We know how the regulators in our core markets view their responsibilities and how they operate. Beyond our solutions being based on technology that is already proven safe and effective in existing nuclear power plants, we help customers create documentation that will satisfy their regulator. pre-empting questions and avoiding the need to go round the process again.
Ultra Energy is well resourced and has large modern manufacturing facilities located in respected, globally connected countries, namely the US and UK. We have established an accredited supply chain to ensure the materials we need are always available. Our quality management systems and certifications are industry leading. Put together, these factors mean we deliver high-quality solutions to specification on time and on budget. We are a partner that can be relied on to deliver to programme milestones and commercial targets.
Our strengths in design and as a reliable supply chain partner come to the fore during the construction phase. Our designs incorporate practical lessons we’ve taken from delivering multiple programmes stretching back over decades. We will deliver solutions to customers on time and construction engineers will be able to integrate them exactly as planned, with operating performance once live being as promised. With so many factors that can increase costs during construction, Ultra Energy will not be one of them.
Our solutions are designed for efficiency, as well as simple use and maintenance, reducing the burden on engineers and operators. The cost savings our design ethos generates, multiplied over the 30 - 40 years or more of a nuclear reactor’s life creates big savings.
We mentioned ‘or more’ in respect to reactor life above because it is often more immediately beneficial and cost effective to extend the life of an existing reactor than build a new one. Ultra Energy has helped multiple customers across the world to significantly extend the life of established nuclear power plant fleets. Our work includes refurbishment, re-engineering, redesign and remanufacture of components or entire systems that are no longer in production. Our programmes can extend beyond immediate needs to provide an ongoing system refresh programme up to the absolute deadline for end of life.
Getting nuclear over the line to secure its leading position in energy policy
Building a new nuclear reactor has historically required a substantial amount of capital investment. Design, licensing and construction of new reactors has been hugely complex, taken far too long and cost billions of dollars, making it a high-risk investment. The nuclear industry today is focused on overcoming these constraints to its success. Ultra Energy shares that focus and is the supply chain partner that will deliver the critical benefits of proven solution design and manufacture capability, and an unwavering commitment to helping customers address the commercial realities they face on their journey to delivery.