TWI, with partners OC Robotics and Sellafield Ltd, has won a prestigious industry award for the second year running, for its work to develop and implement inventive nuclear decommissioning technology.
The 2016, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) Supply Chain Award for Technology and Innovation Implementation, was presented at a ceremony held in Manchester on 3 November in front of over 2000 guests, in recognition of work conducted at Sellafield.
The NDA’s awards recognise the vital contribution of suppliers to the UK’s nuclear clean-up mission.
Over the summer of 2016, the team deployed the integrated snake-arm robot and laser cutting technology developed in the collaborative project, LaserSnake2. The LaserSnake technology was used to size-reduce, for long-term storage, a large (3.5 tonnes in weight) and radioactive stainless steel dissolver unit (pictured below). The dissolver was situated in the first-generation reprocessing plant at Sellafield and this was the first time ever that this type of equipment has been used inside one of Sellafield’s original buildings, which were constructed in the 1950s.
This presented several challenges, such as the fact that the snake-arm robot could only access the active cell through a 1m-thick concrete wall. The dissolver was chosen by Sellafield for this application, because it was felt that its thick walls (32mm) and dual-skinned construction would make it representative, in terms of decommissioning difficulty, of anything on the Sellafield site.
Over a period of two months, the whole dissolver was reduced to parts about 25kg in weight. Remarkably, only 40 hours of actual cutting time was required to complete the work.
The on-site trials were observed by project funders Innovate UK and NDA, Sellafield staff, and invited guests and visitors.
NDA Chief Executive John Clarke, who witnessed the cutting, said: ‘It is great that something that has been developed with some innovation funding support and the initiative of the private sector, has made it through into active demonstration. I really hope that these active trials demonstrate the “industrialisation” of this kit for much wider use both within the NDA estate and beyond.’
Dr Rebecca Weston, Technical Director of Sellafield, also sent her congratulations to the team for their efforts.
‘I was really pleased to see the teamwork and collaboration rewarded,’ said Dr Weston. ‘A big step towards some technology that will offer step changes in progress against what we do now. As you know I’m very keen on pushing on to the next phase and the next project with these technologies. Look forward to working with you in the future. And congratulations again to you and your teams!’
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