Funding totalling £3 million is being offered to businesses and organisations who can come up with technologies to help dismantle some of the hugely complex, hazardous facilities at the Sellafield nuclear site.
Two government bodies, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and Innovate UK, are collaborating to encourage innovation by sharing the investment pot among organisations whose proposals will be selected through a competition that started on Monday, 30 January 2017.
Robotics, virtual imaging, autonomous systems, sensors and detectors are all likely to be required as highly radioactive facilities are cleaned up and taken apart by a workforce that has to operate from a safe distance. Ideas that can be adapted from other industrial sectors are particularly welcome, as well as collaborative ventures between smaller businesses.
The Integrated Innovation for Nuclear Decommissioning competition, in partnership with Sellafield Ltd, will focus on equipment that can reduce the risks for workers, cut timescales as well as costs, and identify how to deal with the radioactive waste that will be produced.
Two of Sellafieldâs major facilities for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel are set to close by 2020, when the site will shift to full-scale decommissioning and waste management.
Although the focus is on Sellafield, it is anticipated that emerging technologies could be used at other NDA sites, in the wider nuclear sector and hazardous industrial environments such as oil and gas or defence industries.
Technical Innovation Manager Chris Hope, who is on secondment from Sellafield to the NDAâs Technology Team, said: The THORP and Magnox reprocessing facilities are unique, contain hazardous environments and we know they will present major decommissioning challenges in the years ahead so we are aiming to encourage early solutions.
We are particularly interested in robotics, other autonomous systems, sensors and detectors, imaging and virtual reality â these will ensure a safer environment for the workforce and support planning. We also know there are some fantastic technologies in other industries and weâd like to encourage them to consider modifying them for nuclear decommissioning.
Since 2012, the NDA and Innovate UK have collaborated successfully with other public bodies leading to more than £50 million for innovative R&D technologies that can be deployed across the whole nuclear industry â including existing power stations and new build.
Dr Derek Allen, Innovation Lead, Innovate UK, said: We are delighted to be collaborating with the NDA again on a challenge that requires genuine innovative solutions.
We want the decommissioning challenge to bring together a host of innovative organisations from a wide range of sectors. The demonstrator will be a showcase for UK innovation, with Sellafield playing a major role by providing the crucial route to market that innovators require.
An important goal will be to encourage collaboration between businesses and with academia, especially Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) both from the existing nuclear supply chain but also from other industrial sectors.
The competition will be split into stages:
- Initial funding to develop a business case.
- The second stage will lead to demonstrations in a non-radioactive environment.
- If this demonstration is successful, there is the potential for progress to deployment and demonstration in a radioactive facility at Sellafield.
The first event is a briefing for interested organisations on 14 February at the Digital Catapult in London, with a webcast option.
This will be followed by a series of regional brokering sessions around the UK during spring 2017, which will provide more information, opportunities for informal face-to-face discussions and to link up with prospective collaborative partners. Applications must be submitted by 26 April 2017.
Planned brokering events are summarised below:
|28 February||Oil & Gas Technology Centre, Aberdeen||https://nuclear-decommissioning-sbri-brokerage-aberdeen.eventbrite.co.uk|
|7 March||Rheged, Penrith||https://nuclear-decommissioning-sbri-brokerage-cumbria.eventbrite.co.uk|
|9 March||Armada House, Bristol||https://nuclear-decommissioning-sbri-brokerage-bristol.eventbrite.co.uk|