Steel Bricks involved in US nuclear construction programme
Steel Bricks, a modular steel construction system developed in Scotland, has been selected for a multi-million-dollar funding programme run by the U.S Department of Energy with the aim of making advanced nuclear construction more affordable and faster.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Reactor Innovation Centre is leading the US$5.8mn programme, which consists of three construction technologies including Steel Bricks, to help reduce the cost of new nuclear builds. The organisation says it can cut costs by more than 10% and hopes the programme will help to significantly speed up the pace of nuclear construction development.
The three construction technologies being used in the programme are:
- Vertical shaft construction, a best practice from the tunnelling industry that could reduce construction schedules by more than a year
- Steel Bricks, a system of modular steel-concrete composite structures which could significantly reduce the labour required on site
- Advanced monitoring, coupled with digital twin technology, can create a 3-D replica of the nuclear power plant structure
What is the Steel Bricks modular construction system and how will it contribute to the U.S Department of Energy’s programme?
Fabricated by Caunton Engineering, Steel Bricks is developed in the UK by the Renfrewshire-based company, Modular Walling Systems. Described as being like “high-tech LEGO pieces”, the system is one of three development projects which will be funded by the Department of Energy’s Advanced Construction Technology (ACT) initiative.
The Steel Bricks system has recently been selected as a major component for the BWRX-300 Small Modular Reactor developed by GE Hitachi, a company that will lead a team to explore technologies to ensure they meet the requirements of the nuclear industry. The company’s modular reactor working with the Steel Bricks system aims to target a market worth US$1.2trn.
Explaining how nuclear construction costs will be reduced, Dr. Kathryn Huff, Acting US Assistant Secretary for nuclear energy at the DoE, said: “Construction costs and schedule overruns have plagued new nuclear builds for decades. By leveraging advanced construction technologies, we can drive down costs and speed the pace of advanced nuclear deployment - much-needed steps to tackle global climate change and meet President Biden’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050”, she said.
The funding from the Department of Energy aims to allow for the development of the Steel Bricks system and its application for advanced small modular reactor design. Full-size reactor specimens will be fabricated in the UK, prior to testing conducted by Purdue University in Indiana later this year.
Construction workers urged to down tools for mental health
The construction industry is being encouraged to stop all work for one hour to focus on the importance of physical and mental health. The plea is part of the ‘Stop. Make a Change.’ (SMAC) campaign which is asking construction organisations across the country t spend an hour thinking about physical health conditions, such as respiratory health, work-related stress, as well as mental health conditions including, but not limited to, depression, anxiety, OCD, and bipolar disorder.
This year, the campaign, which takes place from 11 to 22 October, will focus on individual workers, placing particular emphasis on how they have been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. In addition to encouraging workers to consider their health, safety, and wellbeing, they will also be asked how those areas can be improved
Andy Mitchell, co-chair of the Construction Leadership Council, said: “Our industry workforce is crucial to all of our future successes. We recognise the heroic efforts these workers have undertaken during the pandemic, and want to make sure that, as the industry hopefully emerges from COVID-19, we continue to look after everyone’s health, safety and wellbeing.”
Around 200,000 people took part in the campaign in 2019, which has been running since 2017. SMAC’s website also offers conversation starter kits to help encourage people to talk about their emotions and wellbeing, making it as natural as possible.
Suicide rates in the construction industry are increasing
A study by Glasgow Caledonian University found suicide rates among construction workers had risen to 29 per 100,000 in 2019 from 25 in 2015. Suicide rates among labourers increased by more than 50% from 48 per 100,000 in 2015 to 73 per 100,000 in 2019. However, the rate in non-construction-related industries has fallen, with just under five people per 100,000 taking their own lives in 2019 in comparison to 7 people in 2015.
If you work in the construction industry and need help, The Lighthouse charity provides free 24-hour, seven-days-a-week emotional and wellbeing support for those in the industry through its helpline available on 0345 605 1956 in the UK, or 1800 939 122 in the Republic of Ireland.
Lighthouse also has a free app where workers can access information that can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play.