Subscribe to our newsletter to receive the latest news and events from TWI:

Subscribe >
Skip to content

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 Group Manager - Materials and Structural Integrity

Jon leads TWI's Materials and Structural Integrity (MSI) Group, which provides consultancy, testing and research and development services to TWI's Industrial Members. The MSI Group consists of more than 120 employees and extensive laboratory facilities (from electron microscopy to full-scale environmental testing). The Group has a wide range of world-leading expertise to support TWI's Industrial Members in managing the through-life integrity of their assets; from conceptual design through to end of life.

Jon has a background in Mechanical Engineering and a doctorate in Manufacturing Engineering. Prior to joining TWI, he worked in the Canadian pulp industry, working at various pulp mills in the Province of Alberta during their planned maintenance periods. He worked in TWI's Advanced Manufacturing Group from 2006 - 2019, as section manager (lasers) and then operations group manager, and finally as responsible group manager for TWI's laser processing, furnace processing, functional coatings and surface characterisation teams.

Outside of TWI, Jon is the current President of the UK's Association of Industrial Laser Users and is a Member of the UK's Photonics Leadership Group.