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The latest in our R&D program

17/06/2021

There are many challenges connected to nuclear decommissioning activities and the industry can greatly benefit from research and development (R&D) projects which aim to provide solutions.

The NDA (Nuclear Decommissioning Authority) aims to drive innovation in order to help address the wide-ranging, complex challenges the industry faces. It has set out its own list of ‘Grand Challenges’ across its operations which it plans to address by using technical innovation.

Four areas for improving productivity, efficiency and effectiveness have been identified:

  • Reducing waste – finding new ways to drive the waste hierarchy, increasing recycling and reuse to reduce volumes sent for disposal
  • Intelligent infrastructure – using autonomous technology to manage assets and buildings proactively and efficiently
  • Moving humans away from harm – reducing the need for people to enter hazardous environments using autonomous systems, robotics and wearable technology
  • Digital delivery – adopting digital approaches for capturing and using data, to improve planning, training and aid decision-making

Eadon Consulting has expanded its R&D project program in this sector. Our team are enjoying working on a diverse range of projects that allow them to exercise their innovative problem solving and design skills to address decommissioning challenges. Over the past year, with the NDA’s ‘grand challenge’ aims in mind, we have worked on several projects which seek to ‘move humans away from harm’ with our innovative technical solutions.

One of our ongoing R&D projects is REACH (Remote Extendable Access, Characterisation and Handling) – developed in response to Sellafield’s Game Changers call for technical solutions to aid Post Operational Clean Out (POCO.)  REACH is a bespoke modular system designed to reduce the need for people to enter hazardous environments. It can be assembled in a confined space and enter nuclear cells via a typical 150mm diameter port. Essentially, it provides a Meccano kit of simple parts that can be assembled in many ways to deploy sensors into the rooms. The system has been designed to be flexible – so it can carry whatever sensor is needed at that time, to take whatever measurement is needed. For example, it could carry a camera one day or laser scanner the next.  Or you could choose to deploy multiple sensors at one time. With real time feedback on the position of the sensor as well as its readings, an accurate map of the room characteristics can be built up. It can also achieve a greater reach into the room compared with other similar techniques, enabling 3D maps to be generated. This technology could help with tasks such as cleaning and cutting and provide an opportunity to deploy and retrieve cameras, radiometric devices and sampling equipment in difficult to access areas.

The NDA has set out an interim innovation aim that by 2025  “70% of all initial characterisation will be undertaken in situ, with results available within 24hrs.”1 Eadon’s REACH solution seeks to address this aim.

Another, born from a Game Changers challenge, is our sampling tool, LANCE (Long-reach Access Nuclear Carbonaceous-deposit Extractor). The tool was needed by the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) to collect carbonaceous deposits from the cladding of Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor (AGR) fuel pins situated in cooling ponds. The carbon deposits affect heat transfer from fuel to coolant and, consequently, affect the fuel temperature. Effective sampling of the deposits is needed to allow vital data to be gathered more quickly, accurately and thoroughly.

Using existing tools from the medical industry and applying them in a bespoke manner, Eadon’s LANCE offers a purpose-designed solution. Designed to be robust and easy to use in the highly constrained, nuclear environment, LANCE aims to effectively gather deposits reliably and accurately. This project is currently in the design phase, but if successful, could be developed further and used in many more sectors worldwide.

Thirdly, after being awarded the Sellafield Ltd LINC 19 challenge, we developed a diamond wire cutter. Sellafield needed a method of remotely cutting and removing an obstruction between two storage ponds. The metal object was preventing ROV access required for decommissioning activities.

Eadon identified diamond wire cutting as being the most appropriate technique. While this technique is typically used on large-scale demolition projects, we found the same technique being used on a smaller scale for gem cutting and decided that this method could be adapted for the Sellafield application.

Using our experience from the test rig development, as well as drawing on other ongoing R&D projects, we were able to use a number of off-the-shelf components and technologies, accelerating the development time whilst also reducing cost and improving reliability. Successful FAT testing has recently been carried out.

The Eadon team shares a passion for solving challenging engineering problems and has found working on these types of projects extremely rewarding. Working on projects like this has allowed us to expand our R&D capabilities and build relationships within the nuclear sector; and we welcome further opportunities of this kind.

 

  1. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/973438/NDA_Strategy_2021_A.pdf
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