2008 Rutherford medal and prize

Dr Alan Copestake, Dr Stephen Walley, Mr John Stewart Kiltie, Mr Chris Weston and Mr Brian Griffin

Rolls Royce plc.

For the development of a long-life nuclear reactor core for UK submarines.

The Rutherford medal and prize for distinguished research in nuclear physics or nuclear technology has been awarded to ateam of physicists and engineers at Rolls-Royce plc, Dr Alan Copestake (Principal Physicist), Dr Stephen Walley (Principal Physicist), Mr John Stewart Kiltie (Senior Engineer), Mr Chris Weston (Team Leader) and Mr Brian Griffin (Senior Engineer)for the development of a long-life nuclear reactor core for UK submarines.

Rolls-Royce is the design authority for UK submarine nuclear reactors, and has been involved in advancing the technology for several decades. The company’s design team has systematically improved the marine plant far beyond the expectations of the early pioneers.

The result is a current generation of reactor cores that is designed to last the entire operational life of the submarine, delivering a high-power output consistently, quietly, reliably, safely and with benign operating characteristics. The cores offer substantially higher power for lower coolant flow and deliver eight times more energy content than previous naval reactors. Whilst early cores had to be refuelled typically after four years, the long-life core does not need to be refuelled at all. The result is not only a major reduction in costs for the taxpayer but also a lower radiation-dose burden on dockyard personnel during refits and overhauls, as well as a lower environmental impact.

The current design would not have been possible without the innovative numerical and computational tools, and careful experimental and validation methodologies developed by the Rolls-Royce team. The project broke new grounds in advanced analytical methods for modelling reactor physics and thermal hydraulic performance, supported by extensive and novel test programmes.

The team has achieved a major step forward in applied nuclear technology; the long-life core will be the mainstay of UK submarine propulsion for decades to come.