Laser technology has been readily accepted as a manufacturing tool for a number of decades by numerous industries. Additionally, laser cladding and welding are used for a number of repair applications. The advantages of laser processing, such as flexibility and automatability, which have led to the adoption of laser technology for manufacturing and repair activities, are also relevant for decommissioning activities. TWI has significant recent experience and on-going research and development activities in the application of laser technology for decommissioning applications, including laser cutting and laser concrete scabbling (spalling).
These activities are particularly relevant for the nuclear industry, as cost-effective dismantling and size reduction of contaminated metallic and concrete infrastructure is a challenge which will be addressed by all nuclear installations. Laser technology has the potential to offer significant economic, technical, operational and societal benefits compared to competing decommissioning techniques. Some of the techniques being developed may also have the potential to be used for decommissioning activities by other industry sectors.
Lasers for cutting are well suited to remote deployment due to their lightness and compact process heads. Furthermore, there is no reaction force between the head and the metallic structure and they generate limited fume. TWI's on-going research and development activities in this area include:
- Hand-held laser cutting for size reduction and dismantling of metallic structures, suitable for use in low hazard environments
- Remote laser cutting, using snake-arm and 6-axis robots, for in-situ dismantling of metallic structures
- Robotic laser cutting for high productivity size-reduction metallic structures, akin to a production line process, to minimise waste volume
- Under-water laser cutting of metallic structures
TWI also has expertise in laser scabbling of concrete, which, in comparison with competing techniques, does not generate significant secondary waste and does not require extensive control and deployment systems.
Typical industry support projects being performed in this area include:
- Feasibility studies, procedure development and technology demonstrations
- Generation of data for Safety Cases, including fume analysis
- Design and supply of process heads for decommissioning applications
- Training and knowledge transfer
- Support with the adoption of laser technology for decommissioning
Remote in-situ dismantling of metallic structures using a laser cutting head mounted on a snake-arm manipulator, performed in a non-active environment.
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