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PLEX project shortlisted for Civil Engineering Award

31 May 2017

The EDF sponsored Plant Life Extension (PLEX) project, in which the Department of Civil Engineering has been exploring the seismic integrity of the graphite cores of the UK's existing Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor fleet, has been shortlisted for the Institution of Civil Engineers SW Region Civil Engineering Awards 2017.

This is a unique, highly innovative and technically challenging earthquake engineering project that has provided vital evidence to underpin the seismic safety assessment of EDF Energy's ageing Advanced Gas‐ cooled Reactor (AGR) nuclear power station fleet.

In a £6.4m programme, a complex, high precision, ¼ sized physical model of a representative AGR graphite core assembly has been developed over a period of seven years. This work culminated in 2016 with a fully commissioned rig, which can be shaken on the earthquake shaking table at the University of Bristol to reveal important insights into an aged graphite core's seismic behaviour and integrity. Information from the experimental programme now provides essential validation of the complex numerical models that are used to underpin the AGR seismic safety case arguments for life extension to 2023 of the oldest AGR stations.

The bespoke rig contains over 40,000 components and 3,200 sensors in a package measuring approximately 2.5x2.5x2.0m. It enables exploration of the non‐linear dynamic responses of many different types and patterns of cracked graphite bricks, representing anticipated ageing effects.

The rig development involved integration of high precision structural engineering and manufacturing, innovative electronic sensor development, cutting edge data analysis and experimental techniques. The programme was carefully managed through an iterative, learning‐focused approach that de‐risked the design, justified the incremental investment case, and assured cost, quality and safety control.

The project is one of the most complex shaking table experiments ever attempted anywhere in the world.

The project was commissioned by EDF Energy. The rig was designed and built by the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Bristol with the support of Atkins.


There is an additional People's Choice Award, which is open for the public to vote on until Friday 16 June 2017. Included in this is a free prize draw with a randomly selected winner receiving a Nikon Coolpix L340 Bridge Camera! 

Details of the UoB project 'Creation of a physical model of an AGR nuclear reactor graphite core for shaking table explorations of seismic behaviour' and other shortlisted entries, and how to vote are available at this link:

https://www.ice.org.uk/near-you/uk/south-west/awards/civil-engineering-awards

The award winners will be announced by the President of the ICE, Prof Tim Broyd, at the SW ICE Regional Dinner on 7 July 2017.

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