Transforming nuclear power generation in the digital age


The Science and Technology and Facilities Council (STFC) will help develop the new digital technology required for nuclear power plant components in the future.

STFC is providing expertise in machine learning and artificial intelligence as part of a £2.5 million project, led by the University of Bristol and known as Synergistic utilisation of INformatics and Data centRic Integrity engineering (SINDRI).

SINDRI will bring together academic and industrial experts to underpin the shift from traditional manual processes associated with nuclear power to a digital technology-driven process. 

The aim is to help to reduce the cost of future low-carbon energy generation as part of the drive to achieve a Net Zero carbon economy. 

STFC’s Scientific Computing Department (SCD) will provide the tools to simulate the behaviour of materials from their entry into service through to their end of life.

Dr Jeyan Thiyagalingam, who leads SCD’s Scientific Machine Learning (SciML) Group and is also one of the SINDRI co-investigators, said: “We’ll be providing the necessary knowledge and expertise on AI and ML technologies to the SINDRI project.  We will be using the PEARL platform as the key AI compute resource towards this project, and will also be hosting Post-Doctoral Research Assistants working on the project as necessary to share the expertise of the group. We’re very pleased to be able to make this contribution to the project.”

PEARL is an exceptionally powerful AI system, hosted and managed by SCD in partnership with the Alan Turing Institute, which provides funding through its AI for Science Initiative.

Delivering and operating safe and economic, major low-carbon energy generation assets, including nuclear power plants, can be achieved by updating, streamlining and automating their design, fabrication and life-time assessment. 

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has awarded funding of £2.5 million to the University of Bristol and partner organisations EDF (the main industry partner), University of Manchester and Imperial College London for the project. SINDRI will be supported by a further £5 million from a number of other project partners.  

The project harnesses world-leading expertise from The Alan Turing Institute, The Henry Royce Institute and STFC’s Scientific Computing Department. It aims to develop models and building blocks for digital twins that can be used to assess the condition of physical assets and the need for maintenance or remedial work. It will help to improve safety and reduce costs.

SINDRI is one of nine new partnerships announced today by the UK government to bring together expertise from businesses and research institutions to develop innovations in support of the UK’s key priorities, such as tackling climate change and boosting medical research.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said:

“By using digital innovation to assess large energy generators such as nuclear power plants, this ingenious collaboration spearheaded by EDF and the University of Bristol will ensure the successful operation of low carbon energy generation buildings, ultimately helping the UK to meet its net zero ambitions. 

“This is part of our efforts to put the funding and structures in place to ensure we build back better through innovation, drive local economic growth and cement the UK’s status as a science superpower.”

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