- News Release June 2021 -
Multi-Million Dollar Investment Programme Announced for UK Steel Construction System
U.S. Department of Energy Funding for Steel Bricks™ Spurs Advanced Global Nuclear Construction

Steel Bricks™ the UK-based modular steel construction system, has been included in a multi-million dollar funding programme to be delivered by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), aimed at making advanced nuclear construction faster and more affordable.

The U.S. DOE’s National Reactor Innovation Centre is to invest $5.8 million to develop innovative construction technologies to help reduce the cost of new nuclear builds by more than 10 per-cent - as well as significantly speeding up the pace of their development.

Developed by Modular Walling Systems (MWS), based in Renfrewshire, Scotland, the Steel Bricks™ system is fabricated in the UK by leading structural steelworks manufacturer Caunton Engineering. Hailed as a second-generation steel composite structure, the unique proprietary system has been described as ‘high-tech LEGO pieces’ which could significantly reduce the amount of construction labour required to build nuclear reactors on site.

The Steel Bricks™ system is one of three development projects that will be funded by the U.S. DOE’s Advanced Construction Technology (ACT) initiative. GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, the world-leading provider of nuclear power plant technology, will lead a team to explore promising technologies from other industries and to ensure they are tested to meet the exacting requirements of the nuclear industry.

Steel Bricks™ was recently identified a major component for GE Hitachi’s next generation BWRX-300 Small Modular Reactor (SMR) – targeting a market estimated to be worth US $1.2 trillion globally.

For Modular Walling Systems, the U.S. DOE’s funding endorsement of Steel Bricks™ places the system at the forefront of advanced global nuclear design – especially for the potentially lucrative Small Modular Reactor market.

Dr. Stewart Gallocher, the company’s founding director, said: “The Steel Bricks™ system is a ‘first of a kind’ concept in the fast-emerging world of steel composite construction. It provides not just the walls and suspended floors or roofs in steel composite, but most importantly a basemat. This takes away the need for conventional foundations, eliminating the traditional Achilles Heel of this form of construction which are the weak points of the basemat to wall connection.

Many attempts have been made during the past 25 years to devise simple, safe and rapid fabrication methods to internally connect steel faceplates. But most have lacked commercial application due to being too expensive and labour intensive.

We can now successfully deliver a solution which is technologically proficient whilst providing significant cost and time saving benefits.”

He added: “This could mark a major leap forward for advanced nuclear construction in its global drive to become a cost-effective, green and sustainable alternative to carbon-based energy provision.”

The U.S. DOE funding will allow for the development of the Steel Bricks™ system and its application for advanced Small Modular Reactor design. Full size specimens will be fabricated in the UK by Caunton Engineering, one of the UK’s leading structural steelworks manufacturers, at the company’s manufacturing headquarter in Nottingham prior to testing conducted by Purdue University in Indiana, USA, later this year.

Welcoming the U.S. DOE funding announcement, Dr. Kathryn Huff, Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy at the 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.”

As well as Steel Bricks™, the other projects delivered as part of the U.S. DOE’s ACT initiative include vertical shaft construction and advanced monitoring coupled with digital twin technology. The project’s initial phase will focus on technology and development, and preparation for a small-scale demonstration, aiming to deliver completed projects within the next three years.

DOE Press release


- News Release April 2021 -
Steel Brick™ Named as Component for GE Hitachi’s ‘Disruptive’ BWRX-300 Small Modular Reactor
Second generation steel composite structure recognised for ‘dramatically reducing amount of construction labour in field’ and for having a ‘very simple fabrication process’

The Steel Bricks&trade modular construction system has been identified as a major component of GE Hitachi’s BWRX-300 Small Modular Reactor in an online webinar broadcast on Facebook in March 2021.

In the broadcast, GE Hitachi’s Vice President and BWRX 300 Product Director, Brian Johnson, hailed Steel Bricks™ as a “second generation steel composite structure” with a “design expected to have no rebar in the nuclear island which, compared to existing nuclear plant design, dramatically reduces the amount of construction labour in the field.”

Johnson was speaking to the Nuclear Alternative Project based in Puerto Rico and was keen to highlight the “disruptive” position of the BWRX-300’s in the SMR marketplace with a “cost-competitive” design strategy “centred on innovation balanced with practicality”.

He later recognised the “very simple fabrication process” provided by the Steel Bricks™ system, saying it “offers a much simpler design from a manufacturability standpoint than traditional steel composite structures.”

Click the following links to view GE Hitachi’s discussion of the Steel Bricks™ system:

GE Hitachi discuss the use of the Steel Bricks™ construction system

Q&A on Steel Bricks™ System

The full GE Hitachi webinar can be viewed here

GEH Screenshot

A screen grab of Brian Johnson’s webinar featuring the Steel Bricks™ system


- News Release March 2021 -
Explosive "Blast Box" Contract Lays Foundations for UK Steel Construction System to Go Nuclear
US University Uses Steel Brick™ Technology for Advanced Warhead Testing

The Steel Bricks™ modular construction system developed by Modular Walling Systems Ltd, based in Renfrewshire, Scotland, has been used to construct an Environmental Blast Chamber for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Known as a 'blast box', the revolutionary ultra-strong three-metre cubed chamber is now being used for explosives testing as part of a research programme on advanced warhead technologies for the US Department of Defense.

The University of Illinois blast box uses the patented Steel Brick™ modular construction system which comprises two steel face plates internally connected to create a ‘sandwich’ panel. The steel structure is then manufactured off-site as a single piece, before being filled with 72 tons of self-consolidating concrete in a continuous pour once installed.

According to Dr. Stewart Gallocher, founding director of Modular Walling Systems, it is this proprietary process which gives the blast box its unique strength - as well as vastly reducing on-site time and labour costs - making it ideal for SMR construction, a market estimated to be worth US $1.2 trillion globally.

He explains: "The Steel Brick™ system, with trade mark diaphragm holes running through the webs, has been assembled in such a way that the concrete is poured through holes in the roof, flowing down the walls and filling the base mat before coming back up the walls and lining the ceiling - all in one continuous pour.

"This is a 'first of a kind' concept in the fast-emerging world of steel composite construction and proves that the Steel Bricks™ system can provide not only the walls and suspended floors or roofs in steel composite but most importantly a base mat. This takes away the need for conventional foundations, eliminating the traditional Achilles Heel of this form of construction which are the weak points of the base mat to wall connection."

He adds: "Many attempts have been made during the past 25 years to devise simple, safe and rapid fabrication methods to internally connect steel faceplates. But most have lacked commercial application due to being too expensive and labour intensive. We have now proved we can successfully deliver a solution which is technologically proficient whilst providing significant cost and time saving benefits."

The Environmental Blast Chamber was fabricated in the UK by Caunton Engineering, one of the UK's leading structural steelworks manufacturers, at the company's manufacturing headquarters in Nottingham before being shipped to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Now installed, the blast box is expected to deliver some impressive results, as testified by Professor Nick Glumac who leads the explosive testing and weapons research faculty at the University. He says: "The test facility allows for large scale high explosive testing with advanced imaging, spectroscopic and flash x-ray diagnostics. The system can be operated as a fully enclosed or partially vented structure enabling a wide variety of tests of high explosives, propellant systems and pyrotechnics.

"The chamber has optical access on three sides for multiple views of testing, while internal walls are amenable to instrumentation and fragmentation shields, allowing the testing of heavily fragmenting warheads.

He adds: "One critical advantage of the blast box is that it can be 'dropped-in' on site, arriving fully assembled and ready for the concrete pour. This means less site preparation, fewer personnel needed for installation and rapid times from delivery to first operation."

Caunton Engineering and Modular Walling Systems are now in detailed discussions with potential customers about a broad range of applications for the Steel Bricks™ system - including the worldwide nuclear industry. Dr Gallocher continues: "The success of the University of Illinois contract shows that the Steel Bricks™ system is perfectly suited for markets where potentially dangerous materials are being handled and where time on site needs to be minimised.

"We believe that this technology, combined with the significant cost and time reductions of off-site manufacture, will now provide a major stimulus for the global roll out of Small Modular Reactors.