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Nuclear Decommissioning at Sellafield using LaserSnake

TWI has successfully completed the size reduction of an active dissolver cell from the First Generation Reprocessing Plant at Sellafield using laser cutting - a new development which could transform the approach to dismantling redundant nuclear equipment, leading to significant cost and time savings.

The LaserSnake combines TWI’s high powered laser cutting technology with an OC Robotics snake-arm robot, giving a decommissioning tool with the dexterity required to work in high-hazard confined nuclear environments and the safe, precise size reduction process. It also meets the rigorous safety requirements of both Sellafield Ltd and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

The rapid laser size reduction process produces minimal fume with a low dispersion of fume particles, and reduces the production of other secondary waste streams as no operator suits or contaminated hand equipment are put into the waste chain. Operator exposure to contamination is eliminated through remote operation, and economic savings can be made due to its high productivity, reliability, and reduced secondary waste.

TWI has worked with Industrial Member OC Robotics to develop a system that is reusable, reliable, robust, safe, and cost efficient, while the rapid process offers huge savings over incumbent mechanical and thermal processes.

LaserSnake was developed primarily to benefit nuclear decommissioning, but has wide-ranging capabilities on any decommissioning project with restricted access and aggressive environments, such as chemical plants, bridges, and offshore platforms.

Funded by Innovate UK, the LaserSnake project won the Technology/Innovation Implementation Award at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority Supply Chain Awards in November 2016, recognising the innovation and collaboration required to take technology innovation through to successful implementation at a Site License Company.

For more information, please email

Laser Snake
Laser Snake
Avatar Dr Jon Blackburn Strategic Capability Development Manager

Jon joined TWI in 2006, initially working within the Advanced Manufacturing Group and subsequently leading the Materials and Structural Integrity Group. Jon is currently responsible for establishing and delivering TWI’s Capability Development Programme, which represents a portfolio of ca. £10M of activity, ensuring that TWI is well positioned to support the future needs of its Industrial Members. Additionally, he has led the development of TWI’s 5-year Technology Roadmap and championed TWI’s strategic response to the hydrogen economy.

Jon has a Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Doctorate in Advanced Manufacturing. Outside of TWI, Jon has previously served as President and Non-Executive Director for the UK's Association of Industrial Laser Users.