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Annual Research and Development Review 2021/22

Jun 07, 2024Jun 07, 2024

Published 28 September 2022

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I hope you enjoy this year’s annual report on the research and development (R&D) that our technical teams both undertake and sponsor.

This work is fundamental in delivering our purpose of a clean and safe environment for future generations.

Our aim to remediate the Sellafield site remains constant and with each year we progress with the reduction of the site hazards and the building of technically advanced facilities to manage and store legacy waste.

This coming year marks the end of an era with the cessation of reprocessing nuclear fuel on the Sellafield site. This will allow our workforce to focus on decommissioning and waste management activities moving us closer towards the site end-state.

The ability to make the decision to end Magnox reprocessing and to do this safely and effectively relied on the years of knowledge and experience built up in our technical teams and centres of expertise.

It provides just one example where the technical support to our operational facilities and forward-looking projects ensures our endeavours to provide Lifetime Value for Money*.

I am, as always, in awe of both the quality of this work and the breadth of subject matter that our technical teams consistently deliver.

In this report we discuss work as diverse as the use of robotics in the risk reduction of glovebox operations to the corrosion monitoring of our waste packages.

To make the range of topics easier to digest we have divided the report into sections starting with our enterprise-wide R&D projects followed by those sponsored by our four value streams.

Each section starts with that area’s key research themes and includes introductions to some of the people involved in the R&D and the real passion they have for what they do.

We would be nothing without our partners and collaboration is a key theme of this report whether it is the joint research activities with the other Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) subsidiaries or work we sponsor with our technical supply chain and academia.

The number and extent of interactions we have with others who hold similar challenges or hold the knowledge to solve our scientific and technical challenges are significant.

Finally, it is my privilege to introduce our new Chief Technical Officer Robin Ibbotson who started in January of this year.

He brings a wealth of experience from BAE systems to help shape and grow our portfolio of scientific and R&D activities putting us in the best possible position to tackle future opportunities and challenges.

Katherine Eilbeck

Head of R&D, Sellafield Ltd

*Lifetime value for money

Lifetime value for money’ reflects a wider holistic view of value. Remediating a legacy site and reducing the government’s long-term liabilities is part of how we create value, but we can create additional value by leaving a positive legacy.

We are currently focusing on the following areas:

I was honoured to accept the chief technical officer role at Sellafield Ltd earlier this year recognising our world class science capability and the challenges inherent in such a position.

We manage a significant proportion of the UK’s nuclear legacy and inventory, and as such, we are custodians of the national reputation, and we need to underpin our decision with scientific evidence and leverage the best applicable technology.

I have been really enthused by the rapport we have with our stakeholders, the collaboration we have across our organisation, and our positive relationships with our partners and supply chain; the latter is hugely important, as when we look to the future, it is vital that we are a good industrial partner in West Cumbria, the North West and beyond.

It has been great starting out in the organisation and seeing the R&D projects described in previous reports now being deployed and adding value across our business.

There is real opportunity to expand and improve our portfolio and consistently land the benefits of our work completed by our teams across the Sellafield site.

Robin IbbotsonChief Technical Officer

To find out more contact - [email protected]

For more information about the NDA grand challenges visit:NDA challenges

The enterprise technical team reports to our Chief Technical Officer and is responsible for managing our technical capability and its key contract with the National Nuclear Laboratory (via the Technical Services Agreement).

It also covers our technical baseline, and overseeing and managing the research and development (R&D) programmes that address the needs of our business.

There are several key R&D areas that the enterprise technical team is focused on:

The role of enterprise research and development is to provide underpinning scientific information and technologyoptions to improve safety, reduce costs and accelerate operations.

Our R&D is focused on specific themes and is coordinated through Integrated Research Teams (IRTs) whose role is to:

The longer-term enterprise led R&D programmes complement the shorter term programmes, which are deliveredby the operational plant facing parts of the business known as value streams, as illustrated here.

The current R&D science and technology focus themes are:



These themes are described in more detail in the enterprise led research and development plan.

Sellafield Ltd sits as part of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s (NDA’s) group, one of four subsidiaries that NDA directly funds.

In 2021, NDA took the final steps to move to a group (subsidiary) operating model, away from the previous contractual, parent body organisation approach.

Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd (DSRL) became an NDA subsidiary in April 2021, followed by Low Level Waste Repository Ltd (LLWR Ltd) in July. These follow similar changes for Sellafield in 2016 and Magnox in 2019.

The subsidiaries have been further consolidated to create a more simplified structure. In January 2022 Radioactive Waste Management (RWM) and LLWR came together into one waste organisation, Nuclear Waste Services, and Dounreay is planned to join Magnox in 2023.

The NDA group is now made up of the NDA and its 4 key component parts:

NDA’s estate has always worked closely together, undertaking joint research through the NDA’s Direct Research Portfolio (DRP) and active membership of the Nuclear Waste Decommissioning Research Forum (NWDRF) but these changes in the group model are allowing for greater integration and collaboration and is a core part of the NDA’s new innovation strategy.

Working on joint challenges with the NDA and the rest of the estate provides multiple benefits including:

Examples of joint R&D projects include:

NDA has also co-funded work with Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) on Telexistence, Sellafield Ltd are acting as the prime end user for innovative, next generation technologies that will underpin the remote monitoring of sensitive sites by enhancing and improving upon existing methods.

Some of the intended benefits of such technologies are the reduction of operatives from exposure to higher risk,difficult or time-consuming activities and the ability to take decisions based upon data gathered in line with NDA published Grand Challenges for technical innovation.

The NDA has also been collaborating with the oil and gas Net Zero Technology Centre (NZTC) through a number of workshops, and we are supporting the development of joint challenges in ‘characterisation of inaccessible pipes and secure communications in difficult environments’, which are intended to leverage the learning and Best Available Technique (BAT) from both sectors.

Our mission is changing. The year 2022 will see the end of Magnox fuel reprocessing and the start of retrievalsfrom the Magnox Swarf Storage Silo (MSSS).

The move from commercial nuclear fuel reprocessing to high hazard reduction and decommissioning of theSellafield site will require a shift in focus for our science programme too.

Because our new mission has many unique, first-of-a-kind activities, it’s not surprising that the science programme is packed with knowledge acquisition and hypothesis testing activities.

We will use the critical knowledge gained from our scientific programme to inform and underpin our business decisions of the future.

Our science programme is compiled by science theme leads who belong to specific technical Centres-of-Expertise(CoEs).

These leads work across the business identifying technical risks and opportunities associated with the current plan and future mission. These risks and opportunities form the basis for the science programme.

The technical CoEs and associated science programme have been designed to meet the future mission. The table below summarises the main components of our science programme, together with a brief description of how they are supporting our future mission.

Most of our scientific work is commissioned through UK academic institutions where we engage with around40 universities and commission research fellows, postdoctoral research associates and PhD researchers to undertake a broad range of activities.

Not only does these academic interests produce high quality research but they also serve to develop advocates for our business, across many scientific disciplines, which enable support, challenge and peer review for our work,methods and approaches.

Perhaps the most important benefit of this work is the development of highly trained people who will become thescientists of the future, within Sellafield Ltd and across the supply chain.

Much of the science programme is delivered by UK universities. We actively manage a variety of mechanisms to develop capability and deliver our science programme.

The primary mechanisms to deliver academic work are through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs), nuclear specific consortia and competed CoE university links.

The Growing skills for Reliable Economic Energy from Nuclear (GREEN) CDT is a consortium of 5 universities: Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield.

It was formed in 2018 and currently has around 75 PhD students across the 5 universities.

We currently sponsor 15 GREEN PhD projects across a variety of disciplines and take an active role in the industry aspects of running of the GREEN CDT.

The Nuclear Energy Futures (NEF) CDT brings together PhD students from the universities of Bangor, Bristol, Cambridge, Imperial College London (ICL) and The Open University.

This CDT was formed in 2018, and currently has around 50 PhD students. We take an active interest in many of the research projects and are in the process of supporting a second project.

The Future Innovation in Non-Destructive Evaluation (FIND) CDT is an international centre of excellence in sensing, imaging and analysis for the field of Non- Destructive Evaluation (NDE).

It comprises a consortium of 6 universities: Bristol, Manchester, Strathclyde, Warwick, Nottingham and ICL.

The FIND CDT projects are of particular interest to the materials science and non-destructive assay centre-of-expertise, who have provided industrial support to a number of projects.

In the past few years, we have been exploring the benefits of photonic based sensing and analysis techniques, taking advantage of developments in lasers, photon counting and timing electronics.

Two applied photonics CDT PhD students are working on our challenges, and we are engaging with this CDT to determine how it may be able to assist us with our future mission.

The University of Leeds CDT in fluid dynamics supports the delivery of many of the PhD projects that support theparticles with fluids centre-of-expertise.

The ability to measure, model and predict fluid flows is critically important to the innovation of processes and products, and to the monitoring and prediction of fluids and particulates within our redundant chemical process facilities.

Transformative Science and Engineering for Nuclear Decommissioning (TRANSCEND) is a collaborative researchconsortium of 11 universities and 8 industry partners.

The £9.4 million research programme comprises of 40 projects to address some of the key challenges within nuclear decommissioning and waste management.

We sponsor 5 PhDs, take an active role on the management board and take an interest in many non-Sellafield Ltd supported projects.

The Centre for Innovative Nuclear Decommissioning (CINDe) was established in 2017, led by the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) working in collaboration with Sellafield Ltd and 4 universities: Manchester, Lancaster, Liverpool and Cumbria.

The first 5 years of CINDe comprise 20 PhD students, with the first year graduating in 2021.

We are working with NNL to develop a CINDe 2 starting in 2022, which will see at least 30 PhD students based at NNL Workington, working on our challenges over the next 9 years.

A centres-of-expertise (CoE) university link is a contract that we award to a successful university for 5 years following a competitive commercial process.

To date we have CoE university links with the University of Leeds (particles with fluids) and London South Bank University (flammable gases).

These links provide the platform to develop a deeper relationship on a specific subject and are extremely useful in supporting our CoE lead with world class expertise.

We plan to extend the university themed links, starting this year with a link in uranium and reactive metals.

Our Centres-of-Expertise (CoE) university link with the University of Leeds has a range of benefits from soft impacts to technological delivery.

Members of the particles with fluids CoE community have an instant network of subject matter experts and technical specialists across our value streams, National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) and the University of Leeds.

The University of Leeds has strong pedigree in particle, sludge and slurry research for a number of industries(including nuclear) providing cross industry context for problem statements, with the experience and knowledgeto triangulate a nuclear regulatory satisfactory solution.

Their academic staff are recognised as international experts who extend their vast network portfolio to the CoE if ultra-specialism is required.

Cooperation with the NNL Workington facility allows the CoE to unilaterally address technical issues associated with process scale without consulting the external supply chain reducing project management complexities and costs of delivery.

Examples of the outcomes of the cooperation are:

More invasive measures include the scope for our staff to gain visiting researcher status, allowing access to world class research facilities to either directly deliver research outcomes or supervise students and postgraduate researchers to complete experimental assays and data interpretation to strengthen or challenge the current scientific baseline.

This builds the infrastructure needed to better define specifications for the supply chain to deliver our research portfolios in a more targeted way, saving time and money.

Visiting professor status is also a possibility for our Suitably Qualified and Experienced Personnel (SQEP) staff.

The university offers continued professional development opportunities in training courses and software access, which are provided as part of the visiting researcher status.

Having our staff actively participating in research that pushes the scientific frontier allows for active horizon scanning for new technical and technological opportunities to deliver our mission safer, cheaper and sooner.

This can manifest as new technology, developments in modelling software and approaches, or more detailed understanding of fundamental scientific processes that are foundational to our technical baseline.

Acoustic backscatter transducer array for sludge treatment plant

Instantaneous snapshot of particle-polymer configuration

In 2019, we released a Game Changers challenge statement calling for innovative methods to deploy a payload above 5kg into a cell via a 150mm diameter port and away from the line of sight.

A remote modular deployment solution to address challenges that involve working at height in high hazard areas is required.

Use of such a system in Post Operational Clean-out (POCO) will enable cheaper decommissioning and reduce secondary waste generation.

Specific opportunities include recovery of contaminated solids from an alpha cell and deployment inspection, characterisation and decontamination tools.

FIRMA Engineering submitted the FIRMArm which progressed to proof-of concept phase where it was inactivelydemonstrated at the NNL Workington Laboratory.

The FIRMArm can extend 3.6 metre horizontally or 7.3 metre vertically into cells with a 5kg payload.

It has 4 mechanically controlled articulations: +/- 180o rotation, 300mm vertical fine control, and 0-90o arm tilt. The FIRMArm proved very popular with stakeholders and was recommended for a further feasibility study and an active demonstration on the Sellafield site.

In December 2021, FIRMA Engineering completed the feasibility study, which included: increasing the deploymentdistance/payload, developing a method for decontamination, incorporating a sighting camera or light, plans for better control of movement and repeatability, potential for horizontal deployment and potential to increase the depth of deployment.

A second inactive demonstration took place at the National Nuclear Laboratories (NNL), which impressed stakeholders and a decision was made to progress to an active trial.

An active demonstration of the FIRMArm is in preparation, which will involve deployment of a camera and radiometric probe to provide characterisation data for a medium active cell.

Footage of the active demonstration will be distributed to raise awareness of the FIRMArm. It is intended to unlockadditional funding to progress with the concepts developed in the feasibility study, providing further benefit bydeveloping a tool for remote activities across the Sellafield site.

FIRMArm being deployed during inactive trial

Game Changers challenge

Several Sellafield facilities will transition to Post Operational Clean-out (POCO) in the next few years, presenting opportunities to implement alternative POCO approaches with significant benefits to short-term surveillance and monitoring and/or future decommissioning.

The FIRMArm will enable access and deployment into hard to access areas, aiding activities such as inspection,maintenance, sampling, material handling, decontamination, and dismantling.

The FIRMArm has proved it can perform inspection and some decontamination tasks inactively and has the potential to perform additional activities by using different tooling.

The FIRMArm is not specific to POCO; it will provide benefit and solutions to deployment challenges across theSellafield site.

This transferability makes the technology promising across the nuclear industry.

The FIRMArm has undergone 2 successful inactive demonstrations at the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) Workington. Work to progress an active demonstration is currently underway.

FIRMA Engineering Ltd, FIS360 Ltd and NNL

Sarah Bibby - [email protected]

Now in its 4th year, our Dragons’ Den-style competition has successfully enabled ideas generated by our employees to drive innovation across the business.

Each year, this initiative is intended to encourage creative thinking around specific themes, which are then judgedby business leaders. The winners are given time and funding to develop and implement their ideas.

This year, all employees were invited to focus on innovation, developing the future work environment and improving our knowledge management capability. The winners were announced in August 2021.

To find out more contact:

Jake Nicholson - [email protected]

Development of high strength nuclear filters for ventilation systems on the Sellafield site.

The intention of this idea was to implement a new stronger filter material in our HEPA ventilation system to increase the lifetime and reliability of our filters.

By increasing the filter’s lifetime, it will lead to an overall reduction of maintenance time and costs as well aspotential dose to our workforce through the periodic replacement of filters.

The team is currently acquiring the new filter media to create replacement filters to be tested to get them certified to be used on Sellafield site.

High strength High Efficiency Particle Air (HEPA) Filters

Development of an interactive virtual visitor centre that enables anybody to learn about Sellafield Ltd and our projects, which will be hosted virtually.

The aim behind this work was to enable external visitors and the general public to learn about our business and mission at any time.

Charlie is currently working with our supply chain to develop a pilot of a virtual visitor centre based on hisdemonstrations.

Virtual visitor centre

Development of a KM app on an individual’s desktop which allows them to input their ‘top 5 pieces of knowledge’,which will create a database to store high level knowledge. Individuals will then be able to search this and engage with colleagues to share this knowledge effectively.

The team have set up a pilot within the studies team using the functions on the NDA Hub, which includes data on the current projects in the team allowing them to be searched and key information to be shared.

Following this pilot, a proof of value will be carried out to determine the value of this system.

Knowledge Management (KM) desktop app

Now in its 7th year, Game Changers continues to find solutions and develop technologies to overcome some of the most complex challenges facing the nuclear industry.

Providing a platform to connect challenge owners and solution providers, the programme witnessed further expansion across the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) estate with Magnox Ltd joining forces with us to launch their first combined challenge.

A total of 5 innovation challenges were launched by Game Changers during 2021/2022 attracting over 80 applications for feasibility studies, which included:

A total of 24 projects were supported with proof-of-concept grants. This funding is awarded to projects which demonstrate significant merit during feasibility.

Some examples include:

In addition, Game Changers has continued to support projects to fully develop the technology including:

identifying and localising areas of radioactivity in gloveboxes with Loughborough University. A hybrid gamma-optical video imaging system originally developed for nuclear medicine, the Gamma Optical Video Imaging (GOVI) system can provide operators with real-time images showing the location, size, shape and relative activity of gamma emitting materials.

range resolved hydrogen sensing for in-situ monitoring of stored waste with Fraunhofer Centre for AppliedPhotonics. The technology uses Raman spectroscopy to remotely measure the concentration of hydrogen and todetermine range.

Building on last year’s successful pilot, a second cohort of Game Changers innovators took part in the programme’s incubator.

Featuring wraparound training designed to help innovators identify wider market opportunities and attract furtherfunding to develop prototype projects and services, 6 organisations benefited from participating in the scheme:Createc, Resolute Energy Solutions, Hybrid Instruments, FIRMA Engineering, Barrnon and Clifton Photonics.

The incubator featured a 3 day residential launch, regular virtual workshops, industry-leading training andone to one mentoring to help develop commercialisation strategies and to provide unique insight into the nuclearsector.

Hydrogen sensor for in-situ monitoring

To find out more visit: Game Changers

As the Integrated Research Team (IRT) lead, Mark Dowson looks for gaps and development opportunities relating to the treatment or conditioning of Low Level Waste (LLW).

This includes supporting strategic level, NDA estate-wide studies as well as individual technology development programmes.

A key part of his role is to understand what work is already ongoing and ensure that the team coordinates with current activities to provide enhanced solutions to the business.

Mark joined Sellafield Ltd in May 2002 with a background in heavy engineering after many years’ experience working for organisations such as Simon Engineering and Rolls-Royce. He was initially brought in to develop the business case for the legacy ponds and silos early remediation project, but quickly moved to the central technical area.

Initially his role was very plant support-orientated, to understand how technical issues in the business could be overcome, but this soon spread to include gap closure and technology development.

Notable achievements include the successful development of muon tomography (characterisation using naturally occurring high energy muon particles) with the University of Glasgow – a world first; and the proof-of-conceptdevelopment of thermal treatment (vitrification) for a range of legacy wastes, which has now been handed over into service delivery.

Mark has ambitions to establish a range of solutions to improve capabilities relating to the alternative or LLWtreatment arising from the cessation of operations and our changing mission.

This includes the development of sustainable treatment technologies that are capable of maximising re-useand recycling opportunities, and to understand how technology development can support future ambitions relating to net zero carbon emissions.

As the Integrated Research TeamI (IRT) lead, Andrew Gill has a wide remit. His main responsibility within central technical R&D is for overseeing a portfolio of diverse and wide-ranging research projects for 2 recently formed IRTs: land quality and manufacturing.

Andrew is a chartered engineer with an honours degree in physics and a master’s degree in nuclear and radiation physics from the University of Manchester.

He worked for Jacobs (then AMEC NNC) for 10 years as a senior consultant focusing on nuclear waste characterisation and the design and operation of full-scale process test rigs before joining Sellafield Ltd in 2014 as a process engineer.

He was first placed with the Magnox Swarf Storage Silo strategy and technical team where he was a study manager and delivered various strategic and technical assessments and multidisciplinary pre-project type studies.

In 2017, Andrew became the retrievals strategy implementation and optimisation manager where he delivered numerous strategic assessments to underpin and optimise the retrievals baseline strategy.

Andrew is currently in the early stages of planning the newly formed land quality IRT, which will facilitate thedevelopment of the key technologies necessary to deliver our land quality mission.

In addition, he has completed early planning activities for the relatively new manufacturing IRT and identified areas of prospective R&D.

The current focus of this IRT is the development of a generic metallic 3m3 box in collaboration with the manufacturing product organisation.

The Spent Fuel Management (SFM) value stream is responsible for the safe, secure and cost effective lifecycle management of spent nuclear fuel and associated waste, including:

The Site Ion Exchange Effluent Plant (SIXEP), which treats effluent on the Sellafield site, generates 3 forms of secondary waste; a Magnox based sludge, a filter sand and a spent ion exchange material called clinoptilolite (commonly known as clino).

This waste is currently stored in-situ within the SIXEP facility and a means of retrieving the waste needs to be developed.

Treatment of the SIXEP waste is required prior to interim storage and final disposal within the Geological Disposal Facility (GDF).

Three broad streams of treatment technologies are being considered and developed:

A programme of R&D has been initiated to develop the retrieval and treatment concepts. The scope of the development work has been identified through a series of stakeholder workshops and desktop reviews of historic work.

The key technical uncertainties to be addressed during the R&D programme include:

There are clear areas of common interest with other ongoing R&D programmes, including the Higher Active Waste Thermal Treatment (HAWTT) programme and the medium active tank farm retrievals.

Therefore, the different R&D teams are working collaboratively, together with the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) and other partners within the supply chain, to deliver the planned R&D programmes, ensuring that there is a joined-up approach to solve the common challenges.

Incorporation of clinoptilolite in geopolymer cements as part of EIRT programme

SIXEP waste management retrieval and treatment

This project enables the SIXEP secondary waste to be removed from temporary storage and packaged for disposal, in line with UK government policy.

The development and evaluation of options for the flowsheet allows the cost, schedule, waste volume and other impacts to be minimised.

This demonstrates the use of Best Available Technology (BAT) and the application of the waste hierarchy.

The SIXEP waste management development work has just started. Over 30 years of work on related topicshas been reviewed to define what needs to be done.

Two to three years of further work is planned to reach a decision on the treatment route.

National Nuclear Laboratory and the University of Leeds

Andrew Riley - [email protected]

Spent nuclear fuel from the UK’s fleet of Advanced Gas-cooled Reactors (AGRs) will be held in long-term storage at the Thorp Receipt and Storage (TR&S) pond before eventual disposal in a future Geological Disposal Facility (GDF).

The spent fuel pin bundles are stored in arrays or racks and this recent work has been targeted at the implementation of a new 63-can rack.

Proper maintenance and control of the pond water environment is imperative for safe storage of the spent fuel and a key control parameter is the pond water temperature.

A need was identified to develop a model that could accurately describe the thermal profile of the TR&S in order to demonstrate that the temperature profile of the pond and hence the fuel within is maintained within operational tolerances.

A PhD project (1) was initiated with Northumbria University, with our industrial supervision, to develop a thermal model for the TR&S pond which was split into 4 parts:

The spreadsheet tool is now being used to support pond temperature measurements, and similar systematic approaches to modelling are being considered for other storage ponds on the Sellafield site.

As part of the ongoing validation of the TR&S thermal model, National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has been developing a method of remotely measuring the temperature of fuel containers using phosphor thermometry with a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) attachment.

This system needs a container to be painted with a strip of phosphor and binder, but subsequently allows for the surface temperature to be measured without physical contact with the container.

Trials were undertaken to ensure that the coating applied to the fuel container would not adversely impact its performance. This meant that the new 63-can racks did not require any additional coating of existing pond furniture.

The prototype exceeded the distance and accuracy requirements under laboratory conditions and was shown to be capable of operating in the TR&S pond water environment.

In trials, the lengthy fibre-optic cable used to attempt off-boarding the signal processing equipment, from the ROV to a station at the ‘pond side’, were shown to degrade the signal significantly.

Future iterations of the phosphor thermometer will seek to incorporate the processing equipment into a single package to be carried on-board the ROV

CFD model of Thorp receipt and storage pond taken from PhD project 1

Phosphor thermometer detector head

63-can fuel storage rack

Long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel

Thermal modelling and measurement allows the temperatures within the pond to be better understood.

This ensures that the pond water environment is properly maintained and controlled, which underpins the safe storage of fuel.

Ongoing with validation of the thermal modelling underway.

Northumbria University, National Physical Laboratory

John Rowley - [email protected]

The Highly Active Liquor Evaporation and Storage (HALES) facility receives radioactive effluent arising from the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.

The effluent is concentrated by evaporation under reduced pressure and stored before it is immobilised by vitrification.

During the evaporation process, several solid species are formed. Whilst the majority of these solids are treated as part of normal operations, it is expected that some will remain and will need to be removed as part of Post Operational Clean-out (POCO).

During POCO of the storage tanks, residual solids and soluble activity will be removed by washing with dilute acid. The wash liquors will be concentrated by evaporation and then fed forward to vitrification.

These POCO liquors are expected to contain a higher concentration of suspended solids and a lower concentration of dissolved species than the liquors processed as part of normal operations.

These changes to solids concentration, and liquor density and viscosity are known to affect the settling rates of the suspended solids which could result in an increased risk of blockages from solids settling out of suspension during transfers.

This has, in part, been informed from previous blockages which have occurred during plant operations, and subsequent development work that has taken place.

To assess the potential challenge to future POCO operations, a modular test rig has been built which allows the most challenging vessels and sections of pipework (based on gradient, bend geometry and internal diameter) to be replicated.

Using this rig, experiments have been performed using non-active test materials to assess the risk of solids deposition during the transfer of POCO liquors and establish the efficacy of existing plant wash protocols in clearing deposits.

The first phase of trials has been completed and has given confidence that transfer of POCO liquors between the HALES and vitrification facilities can be undertaken successfully.

These rig trials incorporated representative sections of the pipe bridge connecting the two facilities and involved feeding simulated POCO liquors under a range of plant conditions to determine the solids handling capability of this section of the transfer system.

The next phase of trials, looking at transfers within the vitrification process, is ongoing.

The rig has also been used to support fundamental research into solids transport in partially flooded systems as part of a PhD at the University of Liverpool, funded through the CINDe programme.

This has helped grow capability to support future nuclear decommissioning, and the research undertaken has cross-industry application and has been published in the open literature (1).

Slurry transport test rig

Slurry transport and sedimentation in rig pipework

Highly active liquor programme

The research underpins the baseline approach for removal of activity from the HALES facility as part of POCO.

The work is part of mitigation against a risk that the changing composition of liquors makes operations more challenging, leading to increased downtime (to recover from blockages) and extending the time needed to complete clean out operations.

The capability provided by the slurry test rig has supported fundamental research which has the developed skills needed to support future nuclear decommissioning and has produced new correlations that can be used to predict slurry transport across multiple industries.

Ongoing – the first phase of work has been completed; further work is continuing with completion expected in the current financial year.

NNL and the University of Liverpool

Brian Clifford, James Strang - [email protected]

For nearly 30 years, the Enhanced Actinide Removal Plant (EARP) has provided a means of removing alpha emitting species from aqueous effluent streams associated with reprocessing operations and high hazard risk reduction activities.

The treatment process is based around chemical precipitation, ion exchange and ultrafiltration.

An amorphous ferric hydroxide floc (ferrihydrite) is produced as the pH of the effluent is raised from pH <1 to >8. As the floc forms, it removes cationic radionuclides including the alpha emitting actinides from the solution.

The process is enhanced by addition of Sodium Nickel Hexacyanoferrate (SNH) an ion exchange material with a strong affinity for caesium.

The floc/SNH suspension (with the associated radionuclides) is separated from theliquor by ultrafiltration before the floc is encapsulated and the treated effluent is discharged to sea.

One of the key donor plant feeds arise from the analysis of special nuclear materials, resulting in a high alpha bearing aqueous effluent stream.

It was identified that a small population of this bottled stream resulting from historical analytical operations had the potential to contain mercury and citrate.

R&D was undertaken to understand the challenge, compatibility, and effectiveness of EARP to accept this high priority effluent stream.

This involved laboratory experimentation to investigate whether the chemistry of the EARP process would provide abatement to the low, but environmentally significant, levels of mercury in the feed.

In addition, a complementary rig-based experiment, which made use of the non-active small-scaled version of EARP, assessed the operational capability to process higher citrate bearing feeds and their effects on the ultrafiltration performance.

Through some previous trials and limited operational experience, it was known that EARP’s tolerance to citrate was very low as the particle size would cause the ultrafilters to bind impacting on operations and resulting in increased Intermediate Level Waste (ILW) produced.

The research identified several key challenges associated with this effluent stream; some were newly identified,and some built on existing knowledge. The complex interactions that mercury has on the plant is now understoodand abatement would be minimal under normal operations which enabled contingencies to be explored early.

Operation of the rig confirmed the difficulty processing citrate but provided a better operational envelop for theplant to reduce the impact.

The collaborative nature of the R&D enabled key decisions to be made early that allowing forward plans to be developed to remediate risks, maintain the effluent capability, reduce the cost of waste disposal and minimiseenvironmental impact.

EARP rig in NNL’s Workington Laboratory

Disposal and treatment of mercury and citrate contaminated high alpha effluents

This R&D has enabled us to continue effluent treatment as our site transitions from reprocessing to remediation activities.

Donor plants and treatment facilities are working collaboratively together to generate future operational plans that remediate risks, maintain the effluent capability, reduce the cost of waste disposal and minimise environmental impact.

This combined project is coming to an end with the outputs supporting key decision making.


Richard Blackham and Steve Kirvan [email protected]

As senior technical advisor, Dr Stephen Ashley leads and supports the development of strategies for fuels and materials that are currently stored in the actively operating ponds.

Stephen recently joined Sellafield Ltd in November 2021, having previously spent 6 years as a consultant working for NSG Environmental Ltd, supporting a broad range of projects within the nuclear industry.

He has a strong background in nuclear research with a degree in physics from Staffordshire University, a PhD in experimental nuclear physics from the University of Surrey and four postdoctoral research associate positions in nuclear structure physics and nuclear engineering over 7 years in Athens, Kentucky, University of Cambridge and The Open University.

Stephen has used his previous industrial and academic experience to support the long-term fuel storage CoE and brought new ideas to existing projects.

He has also been involved in the 2022 UK radioactive waste inventory submission, which involved a steep learning curve to source the underpinning work and gather the data required.

His current role involves working with the studies team on the pond metals studies, providing technical review ofother research and supporting various multi-year projects.

For example, Stephen is part of the inventory working group that is supporting the work to transfer spent fuel from Dounreay to the Sellafield site.

During his 31-year career, Dr Fayaz Ahmed has developed significant experience in process plant operations and safety and risk management across the Sellafield site.

Fayaz joined the Spent Fuel Management strategy and technical team a year ago, after 26 years in the safety and risk department, and is responsible for developing technical solutions and strategies for major R&D programmes, including the Site Ion Exchange Effluent Plant (SIXEP) waste management R&D programme.

Before joining Sellafield Ltd, he worked in the technical sales department at Water Technology Ltd after completing a degree in chemical engineering.

While working at Sellafield Ltd, Fayaz completed an MSc in nuclear decommissioning and environmental clean-up and a PhD on managing the uncertainty associated with hydrogen hazards and operability issues in nuclear chemical plants.

He has used this expertise to develop an innovative way of dealing with safety case gaps associated withhydrogen generation in the SIXEP universal vessel using a claims, arguments and evidence approach that has not previously been used in the SFM technical area.

Fayaz is currently working on the retrieval of spent ion exchange material, which has been stored since the SIXEP plant started operating in the 1980s. This has involved critical review of previous R&D, development and specification of test materials and working closely with NNL.

Once retrieved, this Intermediate Level Waste needs to be immobilised in packages suitable for long-term storage and final disposal.

The Special Nuclear Material (SNM) value stream is responsible for the safe, secure and appropriate storage of special nuclear materials, with the R&D programme focusing on:

understanding the chemical and physical behaviour of plutonium-bearing materials to ensure long-term safemanagement and storage, focusing on aspects including radiolysis, evolution of sealed packages, corrosion,behaviour of impurities such as chlorides and the requirements for future conditioning

innovative approaches to the safe operation of facilities handling and storing plutonium, possibly includingtechnologies such as robotics, automation and digital applications for alpha environments.

continued technical underpinning of Post Operational Clean-out (POCO) and decommissioning plans for alpha facilities

techniques for the monitoring, retrieval and processing of residual product in gloveboxes, plant, equipmentand facilities during POCO and decommissioning

direct support to the special nuclear materials consolidation programme

Certain historic populations of Special Nuclear Material (SNM) stored at Sellafield and at US nuclearsites are contaminated by chloride salts and/or hydrochloric acid (HCl) which is produced by the breakdown of polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

This can result in HCl gas being released inside the container which can induce corrosion.

The interaction between stainless steel SNM containers and HCl vapour under realistic storage conditions is not well understood. In order to improve confidence in the ongoing storage of chloride-contaminated SNM, research was required into the corrosion of our stainless steel containers.

In a collaborative project between the NDA and the US DoE, corrosion tests were carried out at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Weld samples from a UK Magnox container and 2 US ‘3013’ containers were exposed to HCl vapour for 109 days under carefully controlled environmental conditions.

The welds were then sectioned and analysed using Laser Confocal Microscopy (LCM) and Wide-Area 3D Measurement System (WAMS) to measure the depth and number of corrosion pits.

This allowed for statistical comparisons to be made between the 2 container types and gave an indication of the level of attack expected under these conditions.

It was found that, while the UK container underwent more aggressive superficial surface corrosion, the US DoE containers suffered from more aggressive localised corrosion.

The pits found in the 3013 containers (up to 105 microns) were much deeper and more numerous than those in the Magnox container (up to 25 microns). The 3013 weld region also underwent cracking whereas the Magnox weld did not.

This supports the decision to utilise the same higher grade of 316L stainless steel in future UK SNM container designs rather than 304L stainless steel as used in the 3013.

However, it raises further questions about whether the 3013 TIG weld joint is more susceptible to corrosion than the Magnox’s resistance seam weld. Therefore, future experiments are planned which incorporate the upcoming ‘100-year SNM package’ which we are currently developing.

This TIG welded container will be used in the Sellafield Product and Residue Store Retreatment Plant (SRP) to repackage all of the UK’s stocks of civil SNM into and will be expected to provide containment for at least 100 years to allow for long-term disposition options to be developed.

Experimental set up for hydrochloric acid exposure test

International plutonium disposition programme

This project has improved our understanding of the effect of HCl vapour on our current SNM storage containers and helped to inform the ‘safe-to-store’ case for the upcoming 100-year SNM package.

An experimental scope has been agreed with researchers at Los Alamos to expand the testing to include differentUK and US package types and a broader range of conditions.

We have provided further Magnox weld samples, along with overpacks and welded samples of our new 100-year SNM package.

Work is intended to commence this financial year and will support the commissioning of the SRP and providefurther information to support the ‘safe-to-store’ case for the 100-year SNM package.

Graham Engineering Ltd and Los Alamos National Laboratory

Ben Clowes - [email protected]

The SNM package surveillance programme is needed to understand how plutonium oxide (PuO2) and its packaging ages through long-term storage. This work can only be delivered through selective destructive examination of plutonium packages.

This plays a vital role in mitigating technical risks around the lifetime of packages within the multi-billion-pound SNM portfolio and will inform on the strategic tolerance for the delivery of the Sellafield Product and Residue Store Retreatment Plant (SRP).

The package characterisation facility at the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) received the first welded Magnox package in 2017.

Since then, over 25 Magnox and 3 Thorp welded packages have been characterised to determine the gas pressure and composition in the package, the PuO2 characteristics, and detailed metallurgical characterisation of the package components.

In addition, this year work has also started to derive the thermal conductivity of Magnox PuO2 and Thorp PuO2 to validate data used in the thermal models of the packages and stores by measuring the radial temperature distribution across PuO2 contained in the inner can as well as the can wall temperature.

In March 2021, the first SNM residue packages (tin plated rolled seal cans) were delivered to the NNL facility in stainless steel overpacks.

The residue package was then punctured, and the ullage gas was successfully sampled and analysed for the first time.

The Product Can Processing (PCP) suite of gloveboxes in the high alpha inventory laboratories is used for initial examination of the exterior of the packages and to puncture the can.

The can is then transferred to a dedicated residue can opening glovebox for destructive examination and sampling of the as received powder within.

The PuO2 is subsequently transferred to the residue recovery furnace for heat treatment before it is returned to the PCP glovebox suite for repacking in a welded Magnox package.

The PuO2 was characterised by measuring volatile content through loss on heating, powder specific surface area, X-ray powder diffraction and thermogravimetric analysis. Samples were also taken for additional characterisation in the complementary science programme.

The rolled seal containers were found to be gas-tight and in excellent condition with no evidence of corrosion. The PVC layers had maintained their integrity and plasticity, although the inner layer was highly discoloured from radiation damage. The results and observations support the design of the residue treatment line of SRP.

Next year there will be further examination of residue packages and an increased range of package types that can be characterised by the National Nuclear Laboratory.

Inner rolled seal can condition

Experimental set up to measure radial temperature distribution across a Thorp inner can

PVC condition within residue package

SNM package surveillance programme

This project brings improved understanding of how the plutonium oxide and its packaging ages through long-term storage.

This will ensure the safe storage of the material over the package lifetime until it can be retreatedand or repackaged in the SRP.

This programme will run until at least 2028 when the SRP is commissioned. The NNL facility will continue toexamine the current package types as they continue to age, and the capability will be expanded to receive other material and package types.


Jeff Hobbs and Hayley Green - [email protected]

The Dounreay consolidation programme involved the movement of Special Nuclear Material (SNM) packages from Dounreay to the Sellafield site.

It was discovered that the inner package containment layers could be pressurised without any external evidence.

Therefore, X-ray radiography was used to identify whether packages had become pressurised.

The use of X-ray radiography to examine the internal structure of our SNM packages is not new. In fact, ‘film’ radiographs from the 1990s exist for some of the Dounreay packages that originated at the Sellafield site.

However, the equipment available to take such radiographs has advanced significantly since then. Modern X-ray equipment is far more portable and the images generated are digitised meaning images can be instantly downloaded.

The recent radiographs taken using a portable system successfully identified pressurised packages, but also provided invaluable additional information, such as:

This information has clear safety benefits. For example, knowing that a package is potentially pressurised will ensure that it is processed down a line that has the ability to safely de-pressurise it.

Over 30% of packages were found to be different to the recorded information relating to the package configurationand material form.

Therefore, the new data will be vital to informing future downstream processing. For example, some lines are designed to accept only powders or particular package configurations.

Armed with the knowledge from radiography, plans can be made to re-route / re-package accordingly, therefore avoiding unexpected delays.

An opportunity arose in 2021 to trial a more powerful high resolution scanning X-ray machine. This was used to examine 46 ex-Dounreay packages.

Given the advantages of improved resolution, a similarly specified radiography booth has been ordered for our future package characterisation.

Like the system trialled, the new system will also have the advantage of scanning the packages, avoiding image distortion which is common for a fixed source used in most systems (including the portable system).

High resolution scanning radiograph example

Older film type radiograph

Dounreay consolidation programme

The improvement in X-ray radiography has directly led to better characterisation of SNM packages to inform future downstream processing decision making.

A dedicated high resolution scanning radiography booth has been ordered and is due to be delivered in August 2022.

The experience gained with radiography equipment for package characterisation is being shared with other projects e.g. north stores transfers, to further grow our capability.

Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd (DSRL) and Oceaneering International Services Ltd

Derek Leach - [email protected]

The older stores on site are currently all operated manually, requiring the presence of an operator, and in some cases wearing, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to enter the store to carry out any relevant operations including the use of a 1 tonne charge block when it comes to the transfer/moving of cans.

This requires various regulated processes to carry out any operations in this manner.

The idea is to automate processes within Store 9. This solution will provide the capability to fully automate the process of retrieving 600 packages per year, carry out analysis, then pack the package into a SAFKEG without the need for human intervention.

The National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) has compiled a mock-up store channel on their premises identical to that of store 9.

The functional and testing specifications have both been completed and the different tools that the robot needs to complete a cans transfer have been designed in principle.

NNL has produced a demonstration using a robot arm with a similar specification to the one that will be used on the finished product, replicating the movements that would occur during operation, displaying the accuracy and consistency of the kit.

Looking ahead to next year, the design and procurement of the robotic solution needs to be finalised followed by a second demonstration of the basic kit elements.

Automated store machine

SAFKEG can and internals

SNM innovation programme

This capability will greatly reduce the dose risk to human operators, as well as their safety and well-being bysignificantly reducing the need for them to enter the store. It will also increase the productivity of the store by speeding up the processing and manoeuvring of packages.

An automated stores will also allow more time with the can to undertake detailed and high accuracy inspection of the can whilst transfers are carried out.

The only changes that are required to the store will be a line on the floor for an Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) to follow as well as a charging station for the robots.

A mock-up of store 9 has been built as accurately as possible at the NNL Workington Laboratory to facilitate the work they are carrying out.

The tooling for the robot’s arms has have been designed prior to production. A first test of the robot arm has successfully demonstrated that it can remove and reattach the port plug consistently.


Paul Mort - [email protected]

The SNM innovation team is tasked with providing the SNM value stream with new technology, processes and facilities to:

A selection of SNM innovation projects being developed include:

SNM knowledge management website based in the NDA Hub.

Real time hydrogen detection to reduce containment vessel transfer times.

Development of an automated package removal system to improve transfer performance and remove the operator from the hazard.

A vacuum device to aid Post Operational Clean-out (POCO) operations by simplifying the removal of plutonium loaded material.

A capability to provide information to the operative without the need to take hands in and out of a gloveboxes.Glovebox bung

This simple device enabling power and signal cables to pass into a glovebox under POCO.

A means of powering tools without the need to remove or replace batteries.

Concept study to consider using a modular store to accept recovered packages.

Attaches to cans to wirelessly monitor temperature and pressure. Window cleaner Simplify cleaning of window panels of gloveboxes.

To find out more contact: Paul Mort [email protected]

Emergency recovery capability

Glovebox bung

Smart sensor

Heads up displays for masks

Plutonium vacuum

Window cleaner

Andrew Begbie joined the Special Nuclear Material (SNM) innovation team in 2019 as part of the Sellafield degree apprenticeship scheme and will graduate with a BSc (Hons) in applied chemistry from the University of Cumbria in December 2024.

This 5-year apprenticeship scheme has enabled Andrew to continue working at Sellafield Ltd while studying for his degree, with a day-release each week for courses and tuition.

He has completed the 3-year foundation course and is intending to apply to become a Registered Science Technician (RSciTech) with the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC).

Andrew has been involved in a broad range of projects from small sensors to changing the workings of a storeand is always looking at ways to drive innovation.

This is demonstrated by his recent Wave Award, which is an internal awards scheme that celebrates success, in the ‘value for money and return on public investment’ category for his project working with hydrogen sensors.

His role has involved working in many different areas, including commercial, safety case, operators, plant managers, technical specialists and maintenance, as well as with stakeholders across the UK.

After gaining knowledge and experience in processes, stores and packages, he is intending to further diversify his skills through an internal secondment to another area.

Derek Leach couldn’t resist the opportunity to join Sellafield Ltd (then BNFL) in 1991 as a commissioning officer on Thorp. 31 years later, he regards it as one of the best decisions that he has ever made.

With an early career as a process development chemist and a process engineer in the high volume electronics manufacturing industry, Derek took a leap into the nuclear industry. During his career at Sellafield Ltd, Derek hasheld a variety of posts, primarily within operations support, but more recently within the SNM technical team.

The variety of work has ensured that no two days have been the same, allowing new skills and experience to be picked up along the way. So, whether it is carrying out mass balance calculations during Thorp commissioning or working shifts at Dounreay to support a national strategic imperative relating to SNM consolidation, he has always found the working environment stimulating.

Derek’s current work includes technical input to a feasibility study to consolidate further SNM from a remote site, continued support to interim storage arrangements for Dounreay and technical support to the SRP project. He has often found that the work requires specialist input/collaboration from external organisations and it is important to understand where this expertise lies so as not to ‘re-invent the wheel’, be more efficient and benefit from life-long learning.

The Retrievals value stream mission is a reduction in the hazard and risk posed by nuclear waste stored in legacy ponds and silos by retrieving and transferring it to safe modern containment.

The waste is highly heterogenous and has been stored for many decades in nonideal conditions, making it hard tocharacterise and retrieve. The R&D programme is focused on:

Our legacy facilities store huge amounts of radioactive materials from the operation of our nuclear reactors over the decades. In the early days of the nuclear industry, the cladding was removed from spent nuclear fuel and stored in large concrete silos.

These building are now many decades old and the radioactive material must now be retrieved from the silos.

The radioactive waste is retrieved from the Magnox Swarf Storage Silo (MSSS) and loaded into large 3m3 steel boxes prior to being stored in a modern storage facility on the Sellafield site for up to 100 years.

Over such long timescales, the waste will release hydrogen, heat up and expand as it corrodes.

These hazards must be safely managed – the hydrogen needs to be removed to prevent explosions, the heat needs to be removed to keep the waste sufficiently cool and the expansion needs to be limited to ensure the box containment is not challenged.

To manage these hazards, the payload of waste loaded into each box has been limited so far.

This project has undertaken extensive research to understand how radioactive wastes behave during storage over 100 years in areas such as:

So far, the skip fill optimisation project has:

The skip fill research is ongoing with further savings expected. Examples of future work includes:

Example 3m3 box

Empty skip

Magnox Swarf Storage Silo (MSSS) – Skip fill optimisation

This work facilitates MSSS skip filling optimisation to maximise waste loading and to reduce the number of MSSS 3m3 boxes being used by over 1,000.

The skip fill research project has saved ~£150 million by reducing box numbers and accelerating operations with greater lifetime savings expected in the future.

The first phase of work has delivered significant achievements, the research is continuing and expecting to deliver further improvements still.

Fauske & Associates (USA), Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, National Nuclear Laboratory, RED Engineering, Trent University (Canada), University of Leeds

Paul Hughes - [email protected]

Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC) has been used at our encapsulation plants to immobilise Intermediate Level Waste (ILW) for over 30 years.

However, the cement industry is evolving in response to the UK government’s net-zero policy which economically impacts cement manufacture as it is associated with high CO2 footprint.

In response to this policy, the cement industry is progressing along its Technology Roadmap for Low-Carbon Transition.

The roadmap targets four key areas for CO2 reduction; carbon capture, reduction of clinker use, alternative fuels and thermal efficiency. Clinker is the output from the kiln that is ground into cement powder.

The simplest and most immediate measure to enact is reduction in clinker use.

It is also the one that may most affect waste encapsulation throughout the NDA estate, as OPC is purely clinker and a nuclear industry bespoke supply. OPC is currently being phased out across Sellafield and some other sites for the CEM I (95% clinker) industry standard grade of cement.

The roadmap is in the process of switching the industries bulk product to ‘CEM II’ or specifically Portland Limestone Cement (PLC), allowing reduced use of clinker per tonne of cement by increasing dilution with finely inter-ground limestone.

This will correspond with the construction industry adopting PLC into widespread concrete use around mid-2023.

We initiated work to investigate the timeline for evolution, intentions for CEM I production, specific materialscharacteristics and chemistry of PLC, current learning from PLC users and potential for PLC to be a like for likereplacement of OPC.

This was to assess and start mitigating the risk to operations.

Key points were established:

We aim to make strategic decisions for CEM I to PLC switchover in 2023 allowing tactical decisions to be made for individual encapsulation plants. Engagement with the cement industry will continue to keep informed with respect to their roadmap progress and timeline.

Encapsulated Magnox product – typical product that has been produced historically using previous specifications of cement powders

CEM I powder

Sellafield encapsulation plants CEM I to CEM II transition.

The security of supply of cement powders for waste encapsulation purposes is critical to our operations and heavily reliant on the cement industry. Properties of waste encapsulation matrices depend on consistent cement powders from reliable, predictable sources.

This work aims to mitigate potential loss of one cement powder source by making the emergent cement powder viable. This will either give a back-up or a reasonable transition depending on the reality of the roadmap.

Ultimately this work ensures continuous waste encapsulation operations, and therefore retrievals, in light of uncertain cement industry changes.

This initial phase of work is largely complete. The next phase of work will begin this year, funded by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority direct research portfolio, where physical trials will establish the viability of PLC in waste encapsulation formulations.

These trials will expand to be relevant across the NDA estate.

National Nuclear Laboratory

Stephen Farris - [email protected]

We have developed a strategy to provide a suitable Condition Monitoring and Inspection (CM&I) capability for waste packages in interim storage.

This includes monitoring the temperature and relative humidity to determine evolution of the store environment and waste packages, as well as using coupons to monitor corrosion and radiological and salt deposition.

Corrosion coupons manufactured from equivalent materials to the waste containers have been configured into corrosion coupon trees and deployed into the storage vaults through roof penetrations.

The coupons provide a proxy for the waste packages in storage, enabling assessment for corrosion mechanisms and radiological and salt deposition, without needing any action that would be intrusive to the waste packages themselves.

Corrosion coupons have been deployed within a Sellafield interim store for ~8 years and now is the appropriate time to retrieve them for the first time to complete relevant analysis.

A collaborative approach has been utilised to enable planning of this task which is due to take place shortly:

Any corrosion identified upon corrosion coupons analysed would initiate further actions to confirm the condition of the waste packages in storage is as expected.

The potential for deposition (and therefore corrosion) is largely controlled by maintaining appropriate humidityconditions within the store therefore all three parameters; relative humidity, temperature and deposition arecontinuously monitored to understand ongoing storage risks.

Corrosion coupon tree attached to base of through roof plug (retrieved)

Corrosion coupon tree arrangement

Through roof plug retrieved via Gamma Gate/Scatter tube

CM&I technology development

The importance of CM&I is to ensure that the waste packages and contents evolve as expected throughout interim storage. This is so that they remain retrievable and compatible for disposal via the GDF.

Corrosion coupons enable the condition of the waste packages to be monitored without time consuming and detailed inspection of individual packages.

The coupon test plan has been agreed and retrieval of the first batch of coupons will begin later this year.

National Nuclear Laboratory

Andrew Milligan - [email protected]

We have developed a strategy to provide a suitable CM&I capability for waste packages in interim storage.

A key aspect is the development of technologies for performing CM&I of waste containers within their vault stores (in-situ) to confirm waste package evolution is as modelled.

Hydrogen gas is produced from the waste and safely managed through filters on the waste packages and ventilation in the stores, however we want to confirm that hydrogen deflagrations are not taking place within the waste packages during long term storage (a deflagration is when a gas ignites and generates a sub-sonicflame front).

While a deflagration is not a significant safety risk owing to the containment of the package and store, it could be a significant cost and business impact should it occur. The question was ‘how would we know if one hadhappened?’.

A large deflagration would lead to potentially deformed packages and should be detectable by visual inspection, but smaller ones would not necessarily be externally noticeable.

Therefore, a method is required to detect (and ideally locate) deflagration events occurring within individual waste packages stacked nine high at a secure storage site.

It has been proposed that monitoring airborne acoustic noise may be an appropriate technique for detecting individual deflagration events and, ideally, both its location within the facility and likely impact (severity).

Preliminary proof-of-concept work undertaken by NNL identified a significant knowledge gap relating to the sound characteristics generated by a deflagration event, which needed to be addressed.

National Physical Laboratory (NPL) were engaged to provide critical appraisal of existing scientific literature onmodelling and measurement of hydrogen deflagration with particular focus placed on confined spaces.

This was to better understand the sound production mechanisms caused by the deflagration process and the acoustic characteristics of the signals generated (time-duration, levels and frequency content).

NPL developed a realistic Finite Element (FE) model representing the waste packages to calculate the spatialdistribution of sound level external to the waste package, including the frequency spectra of the acoustic signatures.

Since the hydrogen combustion process can be highly sensitive to local conditions, repeated model evaluations are required to give reliable results.

Acoustic experiments and measurements were undertaken by Acoustic Sensor Networks at RED Engineering using microphones positioned external to a specifically configured test package incorporating an appropriate impulsive acoustic source to underpin the model.

This work confirmed that a deflagration event should be detectable using microphones and future work will beto develop the understanding of a deployable system and how well it could triangulate in a full store.

Setting up the acoustic signal experiments using inner tubes inside the inner package

Setting up the acoustic signal experiments – placement of small inner tube and bicycle inner tube at centre of the inner box lid

CM&I technology development

The importance of CM&I is to ensure that the waste packages and contents evolve as expected throughout interim storage. This is so that they remain retrievable and compatible for disposal via the GDF.

Deflagration detection technology has the potential to identify potential problems with waste packages as early as possible.

This work is ongoing with the overall objective to develop a deployable acoustic detection system that could triangulate a deflagration event in a full store.

Acoustic Sensor Networks, National Nuclear Laboratory, National Physical Laboratory, RED Engineering

Alex Allen - [email protected]

The robust functional performance of the MSSS 3m3 box is a critical element to achieving the safe storage of unconditioned MSSS waste.

Significant areas of R&D have been undertaken over several years to provide the technical underpinning and engineering substantiation of the box performance.

To provide adequate stakeholder confidence prior to proceeding with retrievals and storage, additional R&Dwas required in a number of key areas.

Convection driven fires

The boxes comprise an inner skip which holds the waste and a surrounding outer box. The outer box comprises the main box body and a lid which incorporates four filters. The lid is attached to the main box body via a bolted metal-to-metal seal all around the lid.

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) analyses were undertaken by us, working with Thornton Tomasetti, to provide confidence that in the extremely unlikely combination of events, that result in multiple missing bolts, correct combination of waste and presence of an ignition source, a waste fire could not be sustained.

This work included additional validation studies against combustion trials within containers where the ability to sustain a fire decreases with decreasing aperture diameter.

Deflagration overpressure withstand

The 4 filters in the box lid are principally to manage hydrogen dispersion whilst controlling particulate or aerosol releases.

In the unlikely event of an abnormal hydrogen release in combination with an ignition source, it is possible that the deflagration overpressure will threaten the integrity of the filters.

Working with RED Engineering, tests were performed using an air compressor to pressurise a receiver which was rapidly discharged to a test box.

The box filter is bolted onto the test box where the pressure is measured. The results from the trials provided close correlation to the original Finite Element Analysis (FEA) modelling work and confirmed that the filters provide sufficient robustness to all unlikely deflagration events.

Filter resilience to sludge impedance

The MSSS waste contains reactive material such as Magnox which reacts with water to release hydrogen either continuously or acutely after getting trapped in the sludge. For an abnormal case of an overfilled skip, there is a risk of waste expansion caused by hydrogen hold up in the waste.

In this unlikely event, the sludge may contact and stick to the skip filter impeding its performance.

Trials have been carried out to assess the impact on hydrogen diffusivity by coating the filters with a range of sludges in the same manner as would be expected from waste expansion, undertaking diffusion testing of the filters, allowing the sludge to dry and repeating the diffusion testing.

The loss in filter performance was measured and compared to the minimum filter performance required to ensurethat flammable atmospheres would not be achieved. The reduction in filter performance was deemed to not significantly increase the risk to the storage case even if this abnormal overfilling and expansion scenario were to occur.

Filter diffusion test rig

Pressure test rig

Sludge coated filter

Sellafield 3m3 box project

Adequate stakeholder confidence has been achieved by demonstrating the performance of the 3m3 box.

This underpinning research is a critical enabler to initiating retrievals and storage of unconditioned MSSS wastes which is a key high hazard and risk reduction activity.

This phase of work is complete with substantiated boxes now in use safely storing MSSS waste within Encapsulated Product Store 3 (EPS3).

RED Engineering and Thornton Tomasetti

John Clifford and James Edwards - [email protected]

The Magnox Swarf Storage Silo (MSSS) is a wet storage facility comprising of 22 compartments storing solid Magnox waste.

The solid waste retrieval process generates a net positive volume of liquor which is discharged from the facility and treated at the Site Ion Exchange Effluent Plant (SIXEP) prior to sea discharge.

MSSS liquor samples have been collected for over 60 years and 30+ species, which has resulted in a huge quantity of data.

The sample data provides the sole effluent characterisation and the basis of design flowsheets and modelling, but manual data entry and manipulation has led to human errors, loss of data and lack of assurance.

The MSSS effluent modelling environment is digital twin of MSSS effluents. It has been implemented as a web application that provides a detailed data management system enabling a single source of truth for managing plant data and model outputs to support effluent management.

The platform is hosted on cloud services enabling controlled access from across the Sellafield site.

The MSSS effluent modelling environment provides a tool that enables:

The environment enables statistical analysis through end user ‘apps’ to support plant facing technical teams and incorporates tools to assist with quality assurance to ensure the credibility of the outcomes.

MSSS transfer package in MSSS building

MSSS transfer package in MSSS building

Workers inside MSSS building

MSSS effluent modelling environment

The modelling environment has significantly reduced the time required to input and manage MSSS effluent sample data, which will save approximately £650,000 over the programme life and improve quality assurance.

The benefits associated with this modelling environment can be applied to sample data associated with any plant on the Sellafield site.

The MSSS effluent modelling environment has been implemented for MSSS effluents and has been rolled out for use by MSSS facing teams.

National Nuclear Laboratory

Wallis Webber - [email protected]

Between 1975 and 1985, Zeolite skips were in service in the First-Generation Magnox Storage Pond (FGMSP) to remove caesium (Cs-137) and strontium (Sr-90) from the pond liquor prior to discharge.

The skips contain AW500 which is a natural ion-exchange material. As pond liquor is pumped through the AW500 within the skips, radionuclides (Cs+ and Sr2+) are removed leading to a reduction in the overall activity of the liquor.

Zeolite skip use was discontinued in 1985 when the Site Ion Exchange Effluent Plant (SIXEP), a treatment plant that removes activity from the liquor via filtration and ion-exchange, was brought online. The used skips remained stored in the pond utilising the pond liquor as radiation shielding.

The skips are soon to be removed from the pond and placed into Self-Shielded Boxes (SSBs) within the interim storage facility.

After a period of storage, they will be transferred to the Box Encapsulation Plant (BEP) where they will be removed from the SSBs, drained of the liquor inside and then encapsulated within 3m3 boxes ready for permanent disposal at the GDF.

Historic R&D has suggested that the AW500 could undergo degradation during interim storage. This could result in high concentrations of sorbed Cs-137 and Sr-90 being released into the liquor within the skip.

This potential increase in liquor activity would pose a dose risk to the BEP operators during processing and sampling.

We tasked National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) to initiate R&D work to understand the following; firstly, if ion exchange was to be used as a resilience measure at the BEP, which media would be most suitable for removing Cs-137 from the effluent, and secondly, could a much less conservative assumption around the release of Cs-137 and Sr-90 from the AW500 be underpinned?

The programme consisted of 2 desktop- based studies and a series of inactive lab experiments.

The first project demonstrated that of the materials tested, Ionsiv cartridges would be the most suitable for removing exclusively Cs-137 from the liquor.

However, the final project demonstrated that estimates of Cs-137 release from AW500 as a result of degradation could be significantly reduced, with the dose implication for operators being removed.

The work highlighted that competing ions released into the liquor following AW500 degradation could be managed effectively via dilution before discharge to SIXEP for treatment.

Image of a Zeolite skip

Retrieval of Zeolite skips from First Generation Magnox Storage Pond (FGMSP)

The work has provided the technical underpinning for a less conservative assumption for Cs-137 release from AW500 should degradation occur during interim storage.

As such, the dose rates and liquor activity issues at the BEP have been reduced and can be mitigated bydilution, which will enable future Zeolite skip processing in the BEP without plant amendment orincorporation of ion-exchange steps for liquor activity reduction.

This programme of R&D is complete and has informed the concentrations of Cs-137 and competing ions to be used in the BEP medium active effluent flowsheet.

The flowsheet will be used to support upcoming safety case assessments and to establish dilution tactics at the BEP.

National Nuclear Laboratory

Penny Rathbone, John Clifford and Stephen Farris - [email protected]

Andrew Milligan joined Sellafield Ltd in 2014 as part of the technical specialist training scheme (now degree apprenticeship) and completed his degree in nuclear plant, process and technology at the University of Cumbria over five years on day release.

Initially part of the Box Encapsulation Plant (BEP) technical team to adapt Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) robot technology for the nuclear environment, Andrew worked closely with NNL for 2 to 3 years in their Workington laboratory to understand how to operate and deploy robots to handle, reduce and package waste.

Andrew then supported the strategy development and safety case requirements for the retrieval of large items from legacy ponds and was actively involved in planning and managing items coming out of ponds.

This allowed large items to be put into ISO containers, while the long-term waste route, involving size reduction, is being developed.

He is currently in the plant facing technical team working out how to maximise the BEP utilisation and drive value for money.

He also implements CM&I strategies around corrosion, radiological and salt deposition, temperature and humidity monitoring to assure waste package condition within interim stores.

This year he will lead the planning and execution of the process to retrieve and analyse the first batch of corrosion coupons.

The retrievals technical team has given Andrew the opportunity to continually develop his experience and level ofresponsibility.

This includes producing the radioactive waste management case for the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and NDA that defines the strategy to manage waste from cradle to grave.

After joining Sellafield Ltd in 2017, Sara Higgins is now in the final year of her degree apprenticeship with her dissertation project focused on the potential use of high energy X-ray radiography or muon tomography withinthe Box Encapsulation plant (BEP).

This 5-year degree apprenticeship scheme has enabled Sara to study as she works, committing to a demanding schedule of day-release learning to study for her BEng degree in Plant Engineering (nuclear plant and process technology) at the University of Cumbria, while contributing as a member of the Box Encapsulation Plant and Stores (BEPS) technical team.

Whilst at Sellafield Ltd, Sara has worked in several roles, including operations support and business improvement within the First Generation Magnox Storage Pond (FGMSP), and has spent the past 2 years working in the BEPS technical team, which is part of the wider retrievals team.

Her main responsibilities are helping the development of the BEP waste tracking and inventory system from a technical perspective, aiding in customer acceptance testing, and answering technical queries. Her dissertation project is also supporting the decision between high energy X-ray radiography or muon tomography for implementation within BEP.

She has recently become more involved with R&D on CM&I technologies and has observed some of the technologies being developed.

An example of this is a recent trip to the University of Glasgow, to learn about a muon detector that can create images of objects inside the detector using the deflection of cosmic muons.

Wallis leads the MSSS effluents and modelling team, is responsible for delivering the MSSS effluent technical baseline, and leads the research, development and roll out of the retrievals modelling strategy.

Wallis graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in chemical engineering and is a chartered engineer with the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE).

She has 13 years’ experience in the nuclear industry, initially working on our projects via the supply chain (DBD Ltd), before joining the MSSS strategy and technical team in 2015 on the Silos Direct encapsulation Plant (SDP).

Problem solving is a key part of her role, which includes updating plant models to reflect on plant learning and operations. For example, she recently integrated the MSSS effluent modelling environment (cloud-based data management and trending tool) with plant monitoring systems.

Retrofitting information into models can be time consuming, so it is important to develop fit for purpose solutions that can meet decision making timescales.

Wallis is the integration lead for the modelling and simulation CoE, which has involved developing our engagement structure with the supply chain and universities to access external modelling expertise.

Working in collaboration with the National Nuclear Laboratory on the Game Changer-funded digital twin project, she identified an opportunity for a digital twin to support the original building liquor imbalance.

An MSSS effluent digital twin was shown to be beneficial to monitor conditions and look for any correlations between plant activities, building movements and leak rate, which won runner up in the global IChemE award.

Research technologist Penny Rathbone studied chemistry at the University of Manchester and then joined the 2-year Nuclear graduates programme sponsored by Sellafield Ltd.

The Nuclear graduates programme gave Penny the opportunity to try lots of different roles across the nuclear industry, including spending time with Nuclear AMRC, ANSTO in Australia and the retrievals effluents team.

After successfully completing the Nuclear graduates programme, Penny joined the effluents chemistry team in November 2020.

Penny coordinates the MSSS plant facing technical support R&D programme and provides chemistry support to the legacy ponds and silos as well as their downstream treatment and storage facilities.

A large part of the role requires working collaboratively with NNL to solve the complex challenges associated with managing the effluent.

As an intelligent customer, Penny works with NNL to scope out and plan R&D work, as well as manage the complex outputs of the work, to make decisions and implement changes.

A lot of the recent R&D work has been associated with the potential changes in the effluents chemistry and the challenges they present, as a result of retrieving the solid wastes from the facilities.

She is a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry working towards chartership and supports several teams across the enterprise, including the MSSS and encapsulation teams.

This support is important to ensure that changes in their effluent feeds do not impact their ability to discharge and treat.

The Remediation value stream is responsible for the clean-up of nuclear and non-nuclear facilities across the Sellafield site with the R&D programme focusing on:

The remediation capability development team is responsible for identifying new technologies, supporting innovation in the supply chain, developing and industrialising technologies and techniques and delivering active demonstrations of technology, systems and facilities.

This is achieved through a structured R&D strategy for each programme area (alpha, beta gamma and waste).

To meet the demand profiles from retrievals for storage of their Contact Handleable Intermediate Level Waste (CHILW), there was a requirement to understand how the finite interim storage space currently available across the site could be maximised.

Failure to do so could have resulted in nowhere for the waste to be stored and have a detrimental effect on High Hazard Risk Reduction (HHRR). The Waste Capability Development (WCD) team have developed a couple of solutions.

Increased storage capacity in store

Retrievals store their CHILW waste in the Windscale’s Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor (WAGR) store in both Half-Height ISO (HHISO) and TC05 containers.

Through working with design, safety case and radiological protection advisors, the WCD team have underpinned that the number of containers in a stack can be increased by a further row, which creates 40% extra space capacity for retrievals waste than is currently available in the store.

Increasing the fleet of shielded TC05 containers for skips

First Generation Magnox Storage Pond (FGMSP) skips once retrieved must be placed in a purpose built shielded TC05 container for shielding purposes. Skips are stored in these containers both pre and post going through the Skip Size Reduction Facility (SSRF).

The site previously had an existing fleet of 50 of these TC05 containers, but this was not deemed enough to support the Retrievals skip campaign. WCD managed a contract with Integrated Decommissioning Solutions(IDS) and Barrnon, to manufacture another 25 shielded containers. This allows for continuation of skip retrieval.

Higher stacking trials taking place in the WAGR store

Increasing storage capacity for CHILW

The completion of this work acts as a defence in depth for retrievals to be able to retrieve and successfully remove their waste off the plant, whilst other, more permanent treatment and disposal solutions and capabilities are being developed and brought to fruition.

The higher stacking in WAGR is completed. All of the additional TC05 containers have been delivered to site and the work is complete.

Barrnon, Integrated Decommissioning Solutions (IDS)

Rachel Addison - [email protected]

Gloveboxes used for research, development and operations that have come to the end of their life will bedecommissioned as part of the site’s clean-up programme.

Many of these are contaminated with alpha-bearing material and current decommissioning plans include manual techniques which are often hazardous and time consuming.

There is a driver to address this challenge using alternative technologies to deliver safer, more efficient decommissioning at a lower cost.

A facility for reducing the size of gloveboxes has been built in an existing laboratory on the Sellafield site. This self-contained laser cutting facility will reduce the risk to operators during remote size reduction of alpha contaminated gloveboxes.

This includes a laser cutting system mounted on a 6 degrees of freedom robotic arm with recovery of waste and minimum human intervention.

The facility is now entering into system cycle demonstration with our commissioning team and IDS engineers, working with operators on plant to allow inactive commissioning.

This has included laser cutting module installation, load testing the clamping arrangement, laser cutting tests and loading a clean glovebox into the facility as part of the site acceptance tests.

The laser cutting trials on a clean glovebox have successfully confirmed the route from laser cutting to the vibro-trough, lifter table and into the 200-litre drum.

It is on track to gain permission from the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) to go into active commissioning with the size reduction of one glovebox through the facility expected in November 2022.

The next phase of work will reduce the size of up to seven additional gloveboxes from the same laboratoryto further develop our knowledge and experience of using this facility.

The AAD project will determine whether to scale up and build a central breakdown facility or whether another engineered drum store or waste treatment complex is required to house additional waste from the decommissioning of alpha contaminated gloveboxes.

Box loaded on cutting table

Clean glovebox loaded on cutting table

Laser cutting of clean glovebox

Alpha Active Demonstrator

The project aims to develop a safer, semi-remote process for the size reduction of alpha contaminated items that is more efficient when compared to manual operations.

This is expected to have safety, cost and schedule benefits once the technology is proven and optimised.

Met key target milestone set by NDA on the 16 March 2022. Active commissioning of the facility is expectedin November 2022, followed by the size reduction of up to seven additional gloveboxes.

Cyan Tec Systems Ltd, Integrated Decommissioning Solutions (IDS), Lasermet Ltd, Taylor KightleyEngineering Ltd

Alan Cardwell - [email protected]

The IIND competition was launched in early 2017, with the objective of encouraging the supply chain to innovate, collaborate and transfer cross-sector technologies into the nuclear market to solve a ‘grand challenge’.

Learning from previous innovation competitions, we were requested to steer the scope of the competition by identifying, specifying and bringing to life a decommissioning challenge which was timely, complex and diverse, with significant opportunity for a step change where Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (RAI) could be part of the solution.

The end-to-end decommissioning of reprocessing cells was selected as the ‘challenge statement’ to focus thecompetition. The aspiration was for:

The IIND competition sought integrated systems which were scalable and transferable and would ultimately lead to safer, faster, better value decommissioning for the future.

The competition is now in the third phase and working towards Active Demonstration on the Sellafield site. Initially 2 consortia were chosen to go forward into phase 3 but now only one remains.

The Barrnon Integrated Decommissioning System (BIDS) uses a ‘Swiss army knife’ approach comprising of 2 Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs), a large base vehicle with the ability to carry out a wide range of characterisation and size reduction operations on the ground and reaching up into the cell using a long reach telescopic boom.

The main ROV is supported by a smaller Waste Transfer Vehicle (WTV) that will be used to collect and transfer size reduced waste items from within the cell to the waste export area.

The Barrnon BIDS vehicle is manufactured, and a number of the sub-assemblies are undergoing works testing, while the Barrnon WTV is partially manufactured and the potential to make the vehicle battery operated/umbilical free is being explored.

Characterisation, design specification and modification of the deployment cell is almost complete prior to the active demonstration trials.

BIDS vehicle – extended for first floor size reduction operations

IIND competition

The innovative products and new technologies that have been developed through this Active Demonstrator could provide a major cost saving in future decommissioning activities by reducing uncertainty, enabling greater transferability (plug and play) and developing spin out technology/systems to address other challenges across the Sellafield site and NDA estate.

This approach maximises the opportunity for academics, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and larger organisations to collaborate and integrate technology components, whilst also encouraging technology transfer from other sectors.

BIDS vehicle is undergoing final manufacture and testing while the deployment cell modifications are beingcompleted with active demonstration trials planned for late 2022.

Barrnon, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Innovate UK

David Procter - [email protected]

With significant advancements in RAI over recent years, many industries are recognising the benefits that this technology can provide, particularly when there is a drive to automate processes, increase efficiency and remove humans from hazardous operations.

A key challenge across the enterprise is to deliver characterisation, investigations, surveillance and inspections in hazardous environments.

These tasks are often hazardous to operators, time consuming to plan/deliver and can be monotonous/prone to error. There is an opportunity to deliver this type of work remotely and in some cases autonomously, which will free up the workforce to deliver other value adding work.

The Boston Dynamics ‘SPOT’ is a quadrupedal (four legged) robot (resembling a dog) which is capableof carrying up to 14kg of sensors and autonomously (with remote human supervision) navigating extreme, difficult to access areas.

It is capable of walking up and down stairs, clambering over obstacles, negotiating tight spaces and sharp bends with ease. It can be equipped with the sensors required for the specific objective (e.g. radiation mapping) and will send the data back to the operator wirelessly in real time.

Recognising the strategic benefits that SPOT could offer us and the wider nuclear industry, the remediation capability development team, Special Equipment Services (SES) remote handling team and central RAI team collaborated to deliver a number of active demonstrations, understand the benefits and make a decision (make vs buy) on future applications.

The learning from the demonstrations also allowed the team to gain a good understanding of the requirements to make generic substantiation for business as usual deployments.

This work has increased collaboration and capability both internally and within the supply chain by supporting a local Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) who engaged an organisation new to nuclear.

Overall the understanding of needs and opportunities have increased which will help with future solution provision. This project has also upskilled and provided a fantastic opportunity for our newest recruits who have thrived on theopportunity to deliver this work, encouraging more young engineers to work in the nuclear industry.

The supply chain collaboration included the highly innovative local SME, Createc as lead contractor, SPOT manufacturer and supplier Boston Dynamics and the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE) for their additional SPOT expertise and provision of a specially designed SPOT contamination suit.

SPOT surveying a drum storage facility, protected by UKAEA developed contamination suit

Photo from Calder Hall with representatives from Createc, UKAEA and Sellafield Ltd

Robotics and Artificial Intelligence IRT

The SPOT demonstrations were delivered within a very short timescale to bring both immediate benefit and open up a significant opportunity for SPOT to help deliver our mission in the future.

The safety, cost and schedule benefits are expected to be very significant. For example, health physics surveys in a facility as large as Thorp are estimated to be circa £6m per annum.

A proportion of these surveys will be routine and monotonous which have the potential to be delivered by SPOT and free up a constrained workforce to deliver other value adding work. This is just one example in one facility.

SPOT has captured people’s imaginations and this work has helped to bring the nuclear workforce on the RAI journey and help people understand that robots can help us deliver our work safer and more efficiently – they are not here to replace our workforce.

The active demonstration has been completed however we are looking at improving the capabilities of SPOT, such as improving the contamination suit so that it is more functional for regular use.

Boston Dynamics, Createc, UKAEA RACE and University of Oxford

Lachlann Peacock - [email protected]

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology is becoming increasingly prevalent in the nuclear industry and has the potential to transform our work practices.

The transfer of these technologies to our site presents challenges but there is little doubt it will raise efficiency and safety levels, as well as provide enhanced levels of service and access to data.

This work has been undertaken to establish if there is merit in using a remotely operated helium filled Blimp as a platform for deploying cameras in hard-to-reach areas that would traditionally need a Mobile Elevating Work Platform (MEWP) or a scaffold structure.

The potential benefits for removing scaffolds and MEWPs from building inspections could be enormous in terms of savings against cost and reductions in risk.

The highest risk to a UK construction worker currently is working at height and more personnel are lost through falls than any other method. In terms of cost savings scaffold is not cheap and extremelylabour intensive, it also takes time and resources and can hinder other operations occurring in the vicinity.

The Blimp was initially deployed inactively at an offsite location to test its suitability prior to active deployment. Following these inactive deployments, it was confirmed that the Blimp was suitable for active deployment.

A suitable facility was identified for the deployment which included various inspection focal points.

A general building inspection was carried out utilising the Blimp which was then followed up with a crane system inspection.

This active demonstration presented specific challenges that tested the Blimp’s capabilities.

The outputs from the active deployment were found to be very positive with key benefits over current technology identified.

The learning gathered highlighted various development opportunities for the device which will be implemented prior to a second deployment of the Blimp.

The helium filled Blimp undertaking inspections in an active environment

Remediation capability development

The Blimp presents many benefits over current UAV technology. One of the main benefits is that there is minimal ground disturbance on take-off and during flight, this makes the Blimp very useful in highly active areas as currently available UAV technology presents large amounts of down wash.

Due to the Blimp’s balloon like structure, there is minimal risk of damage occurring to plant or equipment in the event of a collision, which would most commonly occur in tight and cluttered areas.

Following a successful active deployment, invaluable learning has been gathered providing specific areas that can be developed to improve the Blimps functionally. The Blimp can then be further deployed to test and refine the improvements made.

Sellafield UAV team

Jonathan Norman - [email protected]

The use of laser ablation to decontaminate metallic waste surfaces has been identified as a promising technique that could be used across a variety of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority subsidiaries.

The remediation capability development team have already overseen a series of non-active trials with The Welding Institute (TWI) which explored a variety of different laser systems and evaluated their effectiveness in terms of removing surface layers and coatings from a range of substrates.

The results from these trials were promising but further work was required prior to using this technique ina radioactive environment.

The objective of this project was to populate the technical gaps in the understanding of particulates and fumes generated during laser decontamination, including:

There was also a need to consider the physical form of the particulates and fumes, such as size distribution (including and below the 1-micron size) and porosity as they are orders of magnitude smaller than those seen in laser cutting.

This will enable the respective stakeholders to gain a comprehensive understanding of this technology and address key outstanding questions regarding its feasibility before being actively deployed across NDAsubsidiaries.

Three different laser powers (100W, 500W, 1000W) were applied to investigate the particulate and fume formation,speciation, and concentration, which will be evaluated using various analysis methods.

These experimental tests have provided a significant amount of data relating to the performance of the decontamination technology and the secondary waste generated to:

Ultimately, this will create the ability to enable an effective dry decontamination solution along with the respective filtration management system to be fully utilised across the NDA estate to decommission legacy facilities safer, faster and cheaper.

Sellafield Ltd, Magnox Ltd, and DSRL have identified this as a collective problem, and it presents a collaborative learning opportunity.

Whilst there are still some outstanding uncertainties relating to the particulate size distribution and extent of gaseous products, the data gathered to date is very promising and supports the technology being viable for decontamination of metallic waste (coated and uncoated) arising from nuclear facilities.

Laser decontamination test facility

Remediation capability development

The NDA’s clean-up mission covers 17 legacy sites lasting over 100 years at a predicted cost of more than £100 billion (NDA five-year plan).

Exploring new, innovative methods that incorporate novel technologies and techniques within the nuclear industry to decommission legacy sites will enable the overall mission to be achieved safer, faster and at a lower overall cost to taxpayers.

The laser ablation technique has the potential to be added to the NDA’s Decommissioning Portfolio meaning the technique could facilitate the development of the NDA’s decommissioning strategy and enhance its delivery by adopting this technology across the NDA subsidiaries.

While this will not be the sole solution to the decontamination challenges, laser decontamination has the potential to contribute to significant savings of £10s to £100s millions across the NDA estate.

A collaborative roadmap to enable industrialisation of the technology for nuclear applications has been generated,which indicates that there are no technology gaps.

However, there is a need to gather ‘active’ data to address outstanding questions and support routine application of the technology.

It is therefore expected that an active demonstrator will be required. A proposal will be produced detailing the need to initiate a study for the delivery of an active demonstrator.

Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd, Galson Sciences Ltd, Magnox Ltd, NDA, NNL, University of Bristol and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd

Jonathan Norman - [email protected]

Lachlann Peacock is currently on an industrial placement from the University of Portsmouth where he is studying mechanical engineering

Lachlann supports and runs the SPOT active demonstrator, which is aimed at using robots to conduct tasks previously undertaken by people, therefore reducing operator dose.

His role involves arranging staff training, engaging with stakeholders and preparing risk assessments and method statements, as well as acquiring equipment and developing the future roadmap.

Delivering the first active deployment of SPOT in the UK is a major milestone, which will be used as an example for future deployments, and Lachlann has been responsible for ensuring that the work is delivered to a high standard.

The project is now changing from active demonstration to getting the equipment performing missions, and he continues to work with the remote handling team as the end users of SPOT and the equipment.

Lachlann has been actively involved in changing people’s expectation of robotics and how they can benefit us.

As a result, he has been nominated for both a Wave Award for driving innovative solutions for the future and an NDA group employee award for excellence in innovation in 2022.

Andrew Beattie leads and delivers improvements to the Sellafield site’s waste management capability, which is aligned to the waste programme and capability development roadmap.

Andrew played professional Rugby League and Rugby Union for over 10 years, followed by a career in further education, teaching sports science, public services and functional skills.

He started working at Sellafield Ltd as a training developer/instructor in 2014 covering a wide range of areas before progressing to a training lead role in 2018.

He moved into the waste capability development team in October 2021 for a change in career and to experience something different.

He has been involved in various projects since joining the team, including the WAGR store higher stacking capability project, the MEBIS store storage proposal and the consignment of C-type flasks from legacy ponds to Tradebe.

As part of the higher stacking project cameras were added to the forklift, so that forklift operators and banksmen can get a better visual of stacking different iso-freight containers to reduce error and increase safety.

Andrew’s previous roles and training background give him a good, rounded approach to work life, which enableshim to effectively collaborative with teams from across many different areas of the business as well as external stakeholders.

His tasks include development, demonstration and implementation of technologies, processes, routes and facilities for both short-term and long-term waste capability.

As active demonstrator lead, David Procter is responsible for the delivery of the IIND active demonstrator and manages a team of people that are preparing and delivering new technology demonstrations across the Sellafield site.

David’s 31-year career in nuclear decommissioning began as an instrument mechanical apprentice with UKAEA,followed by remote inspection and control at Harsh Environment Systems and then working in the plant inspection team at Nexia Solutions, he then joined the alpha decommissioning projects team in 2005 before starting his current role in the remediation capability development team at Sellafield Ltd in 2016.

A key part of David’s role on the IIND active demonstrator is to ensure progress against milestones and working with the building operations and remediation facility characterisation teams to deliver all aspects of in-cell sampling and plant enabling works.

In addition, the IIND team have identified innovative ways to improve data gathering, in cell pipe identification and deployment of size reduction equipment within challenging environments.

David supports the younger team members to enable them to deliver technology demonstrations and captures all learning from experience gained from active demonstrators.

This includes the initial phase of the LongOps programme and the SPOT quadruped deployments. He is also a member of the NI and was part of the team that won an NDA innovation award for the Laser Snake 2 deployment.

Yolande Smith

As robotics capability development manager, Yolande Smith develops, manages and coordinates our roadmap for land-based RAI and is the lead for land-based robotics in the RAI CoE.

After graduating in Engineering Science from the University of Durham, Yolande worked in R&D at Pilkington delivering complex technical projects, such as bespoke instrumentation at the end of a robotic arm.

She has worked at Sellafield Ltd for 13 years, initially in the engineering design team before moving to her current role in the remediation technical team 11 months ago.

Yolande has been exploring a range of solutions that can enable safer, faster, better value remediation of nuclear sites.

She is working with stakeholders in the adoption of new RAI technology and developing confidence in the use of artificial intelligence and autonomous systems in the nuclear sector.

This includes new robotic navigation, sensing and haptic technologies aimed at remote supervised deployments, such as decommissioning reprocessing cells and operating gloveboxes.

Working across value streams enables Yolande to maximise opportunities across the NDA estate and expand the use of robots to perform dull, dirty and dangerous tasks in a safe and secure way.

She is a Chartered Electrical Engineer, Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology and STEM Ambassador, inspiring the next generation of engineers.

Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (RAI) are being embraced across the NDA estate, with Sellafield Ltd at the forefront.

They provide us with the means to remove people from extreme hazardous environments and assist in its mission to decommission and clean-up the site in a safer, faster and cheaper way.

Using RAI effectively can have a positive impact on both nuclear and conventional safety. They can be used toperform repetitive, difficult and time-consuming jobs remotely while freeing up employees to take on roles that aremore fulfilling and rewarding, ultimately helping to deliver our mission.

The RAI capability team has been set up to focus on the long-term uses of these technologies as they continue todevelop and evolve, covering four domains:

Each of these domains is being managed across Sellafield Ltd within the remediation and retrievals value streams, as well as in engineering and maintenance and technology groups.

The use of robots has already proven to keep our people safe but there is still potential for them to help speed up the mission, making our site safer, sooner, whilst also contributing towards delivering some of the NDA’s grand challenges.

The Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Collaboration (RAICo1) is comprised of Sellafield Ltd, NDA, NNL, UKAEA’s Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE) programme and the University of Manchester.

The group was formally founded, following collaborative work by the central RAI team with the academic and industry partners, to progress research projects supporting the NDA’s nuclear decommissioning mission.

The RAICo1 facility in Whitehaven has been developed to further grow the collaboration. This facility provides a co-working space for robotics projects to be initiated and allows scenario-based research to continue before undertaking on-site deployments.

The space has been designed to allow robotic and AI solutions to be developed for real-live scenarios, such as within radiologically shielded enclosures, gloveboxes, pipework and water tanks.

The space has been formatted to include a control room that can facilitate remote working techniques, such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR).

Current collaboration projects include the Risk Reduction of glovebox Operations (RrOBO), automated SNM stores, and the LongOps project.

These projects are ongoing with a number of collaborative and supply chain partners and will utilise the co-working space in RAICo1.

RAICo1 is also set to be a flagship for socio-economic and community engagement, with plans to host school Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) robotics events, and summer camps for students interested in furthering their robotics and AI skills.

To follow on from this, RAICo1 is instrumental in the development of a robotics apprenticeship scheme, which will foster links with the local robotics supply chain companies and provide career options for local students,increasing the expertise for nuclear and non-nuclear robotics, which will last long after our decommissioning mission is complete.

To find out more contact - Tracy McGrady [email protected]

SPOT demonstration at RAICo1

SPOT demonstration at RAICo1

Having people reach into gloveboxes through ports is a potential safety hazard and has led to incidents in the past.

There is now an opportunity to consider alternatives to hands-in-box manual operations, which had not been available to previous generations.

Therefore, the aim of the RrOBO project is to get robots to carry out much of the work that is currently done by human hands.

The project is being delivered through the Design Services Alliance (DSA) and represents a multi-discipline collaboration, that includes supply chain and academic experts, to study how technology can bring about a revolution in the way gloveboxes are operated.

The project is based at the new RAICo1 facility and includes contributions from UKAEA’s RACE and the Robotics and Artificial Intelligence in Nuclear (RAIN) hub.

In our facilities, there are over 300 gloveboxes which are used to contain and conduct tasks with nuclear materials which vary in size, age, design, purpose, condition and materials.

Therefore, it is necessary to understand and characterise the existing gloveboxes, alongside the development of robotic solutions, through a phased approach.

Phase 1 (complete)

Since the current generation of gloveboxes are developed for manual intervention, it was decided that Phase 1 should focus on the manual glovebox activities that are being undertaken / planned for POCO.

This includes identifying the tasks associated with the removal and reduction of the glovebox and its contents that could be considered suitable for remote operations.

The robotic development and testing in Phase 1 included a sandpit environment at RAICo1 to trial the robotic technology to the limits of its capability and developed a number of proof-of-concept solutions using COTS equipment.

Phase 2 (underway)

Focus has now moved on to understanding, researching, and analysing the health and safety risks of manual glovebox operations, to understand which glovebox tasks carry the most significant levels of risk to operators and so allow these tasks to be prioritised for automation.

The Phase 1 concepts will be matured to develop the product and reduce the technical risk in preparation for active demonstration and commissioning on the Sellafield site.

In the long-term, this work will focus on influencing the purpose and design of future gloveboxes, so that gloveboxes will be automated internally as much as possible.

This will reduce the requirement for manual intervention other than for routine maintenance of the robotics or automated machinery within the gloveboxes of the future.

Remote glovebox operation testing

Robotic arm in containment sleeve with plasma cutter

Robotic arm with COVVI robotic hand

RrOBO project

Using robotics technology will reduce the risks associated with putting hands into gloveboxes and will provide the interface between the hazardous workspace and the operator.

This project will potentially allow our operators to perform tasks remotely through VR and haptic solutions,allowing glovebox operations to be carried out more efficiently and remotely from a control room.

The robotic glovebox solutions are currently being developed into working products in preparation for active demonstration and commissioning on the Sellafield site.

Atkins, Cavendish Nuclear, Taylor Kightley Engineering, UKAEA RACE, The University of Manchester

Chris Ballard - [email protected]

RAI technologies are becoming more commonly used within the industrial, academic and public domains. The benefits of such technology for the nuclear sector are currently being investigated by us on behalf of the NDA.

RAI applications consist of multiple connected physical devices (hardware) such as robots and robotic tooling and pre-programmed and emergent logic, designed to control them (software).

In addition to the complexity of operating within the stringent reliability requirements and safety regulations of the nuclear sector, robotic technology is evolving at pace and its use often results in bespoke deployments.

This bespoke nature creates complications for the nuclear sector when considering factors such as operator knowledge transferability and the maintenance of multiple nuclear decommissioning deployments.

Over the past 18 months, the RAI standardisation project has focusedon accelerating the time to deploy new technologies onto the plant.

Typically, the development of a robotic solution through to the point of inactive demonstration (TRL 6/7) is rapid.

However, the void between inactive demonstration and active demonstration, commissioning and permissioning can take several months or in some cases years to complete at a cost of over £5 million.

Working with our external regulators (ONR) and our control, safety and engineering colleagues, the RAI teamhas been looking at developing a good practice guide and supporting process Intelligence that, when agreed, will significantly reduce the time and cost of deployments onto the nuclear plant.

The process signposts and ensures that the right interactions with key stakeholders occur at the right time, and all evidence and agreements are captured.

Likewise in answer to our challenge, the ONR has developed a sandbox in which advice and guidance can be sought through optioneering to TRL 7, where at this point the role changes back to that of regulation.

It is hoped that following the defined process from optioneering through to commissioning will ensure a significant reduction in the time and cost in providing solutions to the most complex challenges.

The use of Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) is now common practice at Sellafield

SPOT surveying a drum storage facility, protected by UKAEA developed contamination suit

Standardisation for robotic deployments on Sellafield site

A standardised process to develop and deploy new technologies onto the plant will significantly reduced the time and cost in delivering RAI solutions to the most complex challenges.

The improved RAI development process and good practice guide is currently going through final approval.

Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and the National Nuclear Laboratory

Chris Ballard - [email protected]

Robots, autonomous systems and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are expected to be integral to delivering our clean-up mission.

To support wider adoption of these technologies, the central RAI programme and RAI IRT have collaborated with Ada Mode to create an AI strategy that will ensure the organisation takes full advantage of what AI can offer across the Sellafield site and the NDA group.

In parallel with our increasing focus on AI, the UK Government, Office for Nuclear Regulations (ONR) and Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) have all produced recent publications associated with digital strategy, AI adoption and the use of innovative technology more generally.

This collective momentum towards adopting more cutting-edge technology, both from the regulator and site licence holder, is a key enabler for successful deployment of AI over the long-term and demonstrates widespread enthusiasm for this technology, rooted in government policy.

The development of our AI strategy comprises 3 phases:

The discovery phase is now complete, which included a detailed document review, in-depth one-to-one interviews with over 50 senior stakeholders and an online AI survey available to all our employees.

The aim of this work was to capture information from people working across the organisation, ONR and wider NDA group, to establish a deep understanding of perceptions, opportunities, hurdles, concerns, and ideas associated with our AI adoption.

This information provides the foundational knowledge base to develop the vision, objectives and associated enablers that will form the body of our AI strategy.

AI strategy

There is now an opportunity to develop a coherent and holistic, long-term AI strategy, with a supporting roadmap, to facilitate the successful adoption of AI tools and technologies over the coming years by us and the wider NDA group.

The aim is to use AI to enhance productivity by making work efficient and more effective.

Ongoing with future work expected. The focus of the next phase of work will be the development of the AIstrategy and roadmap documents.

The roadmap will specify the priorities and timescales for when the objectives will be realised over the next decade.

Ada Mode and NDA

Melissa Willis - [email protected]

Tracy McGrady

Joining the central RAI team has given Tracy McGrady the opportunity to foster links with the STEM community, provide work experience opportunities for local children, and engage with academia in order to develop an apprentice scheme for robotics in West Cumbria.

Tracy has wide-ranging site experience, having worked for Sellafield Ltd for 33 years, since the days of BNFL. Her work as an analytical chemist includes obtaining plant experience and gaining knowledge of the radiological and industrial hazards associated with the Sellafield site.

After 20 years working in the labs, one of the oldest buildings on the site, Tracy has developed wide ranging experience of radiological working techniques, such as glovebox and remote handling in-cell work, along with compliance to ISO, quality and safety case standards.

Following this, a natural progression was for her to move to the training department, using her former teaching skills, combined with plant experience, to generate learning material in a wide range of formats.

Tracy’s knowledge of radiological working techniques means that she is ideally suited to understand and assess how robots can be used to operate in gloveboxes, such as for the RrOBO project.

She is an advocate of inclusion, utilising her experiences as a special needs parent, and being autistic herself, to provide a unique outlook on life, work and problem solving.

As IRT lead, Dr Melissa Willis (Mel) is responsible for the development and technical delivery of low TechnologyReadiness Level (TRL) RAI solutions from universities and supply chain companies.

Mel has an integrated chemistry degree and a PhD in materials science, through the CDT for advanced metallics, from the University of Manchester and is a member of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3).

Mel joined Sellafield Ltd in 2018 on the 2-year graduate training programme, which is designed to offer secondments in a variety of disciplines across the business.

Her secondments included the inspection and certification group and legacy ponds innovation team before joining the central technical team at the end of her graduate training. Mel now leads the RAI IRT and enjoys finding synergies between materials science and robotics.

Her role involves working closely with the central RAI team and understanding the decommissioning challenges, across the wider NDA estate: creating networks of complementary technologies from industry, including those outside of nuclear, SMEs and academia.

For example, she has been working on the collaborative robot autonomy and localisation project with the University of Manchester, focusing on communication and localisation of heterogenous robotic systems in Global Positioning System (GPS) denied environments, as well as the long-term AI strategy.

Mel wants to change attitudes towards robotics and AI, so that the benefits can be realised, and workforces supported in their operations. She has already noticed an increased confidence in the robotic systems being deployed across the Sellafield site.

Engineering Development Solutions (EDS) turn problems into solutions and along the way develop people through collaboration.

EDS are based at the Engineering Centre of Excellence in Cleator Moor, which provides Sellafield Ltd and the wider NDA estate the opportunity to test solutions off-site, engage with supply chain companies to find solutions to industry challenges, and implement proven innovations back on site.

EDS has already achieved success across a wide range of projects, saving time, money, improving safety and upskilling members of our team.

The Engineering Centre of Excellence is intended to unlock the potential of our workforce as we have brilliant people, and this centre gives them an opportunity to show how good they are.

EDS work across a range of areas to:

On the Highly Active Liquor Evaporation and Storage (HALES) facility there are numerous bulges (shielded out of cell compartments) that house process equipment which require regular maintenance.

The current method for maintaining equipment inside bulges requires a large PVC enclosure to be constructed and checked before use. The whole process of carrying out the maintenance is very time and resource intensive, taking up to 2 weeks.

A known issue of carrying out maintenance inside these bulges is that containment must be broken to replace perishable equipment, which could lead to contamination spread. A new method of conducting the maintenance was investigated to improve safety and the ease of maintenance.

A team gathered at the Engineering Centre of Excellence at Cleator Moor to take the problem through to a proof-of-concept solution in six weeks.

Each team member had different areas of expertise allowing for diversity of thought and collaborative decision making.

This sprint project focused on reducing the risk of contamination spread and improving the ease of maintenance on bulges across the plant.

The team followed a project flow process that involved creative thinking exercises; discussing the constraints, variables and functions of the solution; generating concepts; and producing a weighted criterion that was used to score each concept.

Concepts were presented to the client and stakeholders to gather feedback and shortlist potential solutions to take forward for testing and development.

Four concepts were tested and improved using a purpose-built test rig. Following each test, we noted what worked well and what could be improved.

This continuous improvement mindset coupled with in-house manufacturing allowed rapid testing and improvement of our design until we had a fit-for purpose solution which met the functional specification.

The successful proof-of-concept solution used a bespoke blister bag, designed with glove ports, posting hatches for tools and a hole at the base of the bag to go over the inlet to the bulge. The blister bag improves safety by preventing the area outside the bulge being contaminated, including personnel as they will no longer be working in the PVC enclosure.

Although the sprint project has finished, the team have continued to work collaboratively to see the solutionimplemented on plant, which has included further tests and walkdowns to improve the design of the blister bag. Working with local supplier Romar, 4 improved prototypes are now ready for on-plant trials to confirm the final design.

The blister bag solution will allow for faster task delivery with fewer resources and improved safety over the previous method of maintenance.

Bulge on HALES facility

Blister bag on test rig

EDS sprint project

The blister bag solution is estimated to save approximately £12,000 and 280 hours each time the maintenance is carried out. This will allow resource to carry out other important maintenance and significantly reduces the amount of PVC waste.

The improved ease of operation also means that the health physics team will investigate removing the safety requirement for maintainers to wear a PVC suit and respirator, once sufficient confidence has been gained in the blister bag.

This solution has simplified the process for performing intrusive maintenance inside a bulge, and there is the potential to use a blister bag for other applications, such as camera inspections inside bulges.

Our bespoke blister bags are being supplied by Romar Innovate Ltd, who has been involved in the iterative design process throughout the project.

Four blister bag prototypes are now on plant and will be trialled at the next available opportunity to confirm the final blister bag design.

Romar Innovate Ltd

Fiona Lambert - [email protected]

In March 2021, a 210 litre drum in the Engineered Drum Store (EDS) showed signs of leaking. While the area was made safe, it was identified that a permanent solution that would not affect the future waste route was not available.

To address this, a team was put together to carry out a 6-week sprint project with the engineering development solutions team.

Following a root cause analysis, the team went through concept generation and an optioneering phase with all options considered. Four viable concepts were selected, which then underwent detailed research and testing to see if and how they would work.

The proposed methods for regaining containment were simple in nature, but containment of waste is a complicated process, so the team spoke with all possible stakeholders throughout to give the concepts a much higher chance of rollout.

The 4 concepts were:

The Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene (FEP) Teflon bag was identified as the best option. This is due to the material’s chemical resistance to drum leaks, its tolerance for long-term storage and the clear polymer allowing the drums condition to be inspected.

Implementing the use of these bags will enable a COTS solution for this issue in the future, reducing clean-up costs and contamination, benefitting the business and making the area safer for our workforce.

The clarity of the bag allows the condition of the drum to be inspected, while the simplicity of the bag’s construction provides a low cost solution.

The future waste route for the drum is also unaffected by the bag, as the drum can be compacted in the bag or the bag removed in the glovebox just before compaction.

Teflon bag on test drum

Teflon bag on test drum

Engineered Drum Store (EDS) sprint project

This work provides safe long-term storage for drums with a unique problem. Due to the chemical inert qualities of the FEP, it will provide a containment for drums and not restrict their onward waste route.

The bag also provides a quick solution to a drum which has lost containment, minimising down time as well asfreeing up operators from long clean ups to help the site progress at pace.

This innovation is currently in the final stages of implementation on plant. All required testing is complete, and the first bags are ready to be used.

Forth Engineering and Holscot Fluoroplastics Ltd

Eagan Carson-Walker - [email protected]

The Engineered Drum Store (EDS) completed a 6-week rapid prototyping project to identify a method of monitoring concrete spall at height.

Concrete spalling is the breakdown of concrete by natural weathering or chemical reaction and can be caused by:

Spalling of legacy assets is a concern across the NDA estate; however the current monitoring method of a hammer test cannot be used above 2 metres without expensive scaffolding or Mobile Elevated Working Platform (MEWP) access.

Design and prototyping

Concept generation and optioneering in the early stages of the project found that ground penetrating radar and thermal imaging were the technologies that best met the specification. Potential deployment methods were also investigated.

Testing and demonstrations

The proposed technologies were taken forward to testing, where their ability to identify voids and rebar in a concrete slab was evaluated.

A number of demonstrations took place at the Engineering Centre of Excellence to identify a suitable deployment method, including Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and wall-climbing Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs).

Final recommendations

Two solutions were recommended for further consideration; the first was a wall-climbing ROV with integrated ground penetrating radar, and the second was a thermal imaging sensor deployed on a UAV.

Modelling concrete spalling

Wall-climbing ROV being assembled

Concrete spall monitoring

This work identified a method of monitoring concrete spall at height. In doing so, it helped address a concern across the NDA estate and allowed for spalling to occur without expensive scaffolding or mobile elevated working platforms.

The project recommended two solutions for further consideration. Further testing at an off-site location with known concrete spall will take place before deployment across the NDA estate.


Rhys Davies, Ian Henderson - [email protected]

Fiona is currently on a 5-month secondment in the studies team, conducting a strategic study for broad front decommissioning.

Before this, she was working in the Site Ion Exchange Plant system engineering team, using acoustic monitoring to better understand the condition of our assets.

Fiona attended the University of Sheffield and achieved a First Class MEng in Chemical Engineering. She completed an industrial placement at Sellafield Ltd supporting the transition from active commissioning to operations.

During her final year at university, she investigated the use of novel silica based resins loaded with metal ions to remove radioiodine from aqueous nuclear waste streams, and received first prize for her research project poster presentation.

Since re-joining Sellafield Ltd, she has worked in the plant facing design office and site wide task delivery team, conducting walkdowns to understand the requirements and designing solutions for the plants.

Fiona completed an innovation sprint project at the Engineering Centre of Excellence, improving intrusivemaintenance in bulges across higher activity plants, and was a finalist for a Wave Award.

Fiona is a strong advocate for Women in Engineering and uses her positions as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) ambassador and member of the graduate council to talk about her career pathway, offer advice and represent her peers.

Additionally, she has volunteered to become a Manifesto Changemaker and is passionate about ensuring staff understand how to use it day-to-day.

Analytical Services is one of the longest serving facilities on the Sellafield site.

The department provides central analytical support to our plants, including for:

Our analysis capability includes activity, elemental, isotopic, speciation and physical properties. The department is fundamental to the Sellafield site as it can receive and analyse samples from all over site with few limitations on activity levels or matrix.

The 200 staff ensure the continued operation of site with a shift team providing 24/7 analysis every day of the year.

Analytical Services is accredited to the International Standard ISO/IEC 17025:2017 as a testing laboratory.

Across more than 50 functional laboratories, the teams perform 300,000 analyses per year using more than 120 Quality Assured Analytical Methods (QAAMs), making analytical services one of the largest and most diverse nuclear analytical facilities in the world.

The analytical services facility includes approximately 70 laboratories. It has provided on-site chemical analysis of highly radioactive and toxic materials for over 70 years, supporting reprocessing operations, waste processing and hazard/risk reduction activities across the site.

This facility is essential to support our mission through to 2070, although analytical requirements will change as reprocessing ends and our focus moves towards decommissioning, remediation and waste retrieval.

However, due to the age and condition of the building, a replacement facility is required.

Therefore, teams have been formed to support the delivery of the Replacement Analytical Project (RAP), which is currently in the design phase.

This project is intended to transition our analytical services into the NNL Central Laboratory and wider supply chain to ensure our analytical capability throughout the lifetime of the business.

Analytical services has consistently provided a central analytical support to Sellafield site, including nuclear material accountancy, plant and safety control, product safety and characterisation, effluent and environmental monitoring and decommissioning.

Much of the original infrastructure is still in place despite not being originally designed as a nuclear laboratory.

Analytical services is evolving with the changing business and a strategic decision has been made to move analysis into the supply chain.

The degrading condition of the existing facility and changing analysis requirements require a new facility.

The expectation is that the current analytical services laboratory will continue to operate until ~2030:

Currently, work is being carried out to determine customer demand and implications on capability with strategic and tactical decisions made through studies.

Existing laboratory building

Example laboratory

NNL Central Laboratory building

Analytical services’ transition to the Replacement Analytical Project (RAP)

The current analytical facilities are degrading, and new laboratories will support Sellafield’s essential analysis requirements through to 2070.

Ongoing. The current estimated transition date is 2030.

National Nuclear Laboratory

Dawn Watson - [email protected]

Sellafield Product and Residue Store Retreatment Plant (SRP) has committed to repackaging legacy nuclear product to ensure safe storage for 100 years, which is aligned with the UK’s decommissioning programme.

The product is stored in steel cans which serve as one of the multilevel barriers that prevent radioactive material being released into the environment.

The levels of atmospheric corrosion on the storage cans must be established prior to long-term storage – elements indicative of can corrosion are iron, nickel, chromium and aluminium (Fe/Ni/Cr/Al).

Analytical services is required to quantify the Fe/Ni/Cr/Al concentrations, as well as other trace elements, within the can contents using an optical emission spectrometer.

The corrosion indicators and elemental composition is determined by dissolving and analysing a sample of the can contents.

However, high levels of actinides, such as plutonium and uranium, in the samples interfere with the peaks of interest on the spectrometer. Hence, these elements must be removed prior to analysis.

In our reprocessing plants, this has always been achieved using solvent extraction. For over 20 years, solvent extraction has been performed in analytical services laboratories, but handling solvents in gloveboxes is messy, poses fire risks, and has the potential to damage glovebox gloves and expose operators to the radioactive contamination within.

The contaminated solvents produced by this method also do not have a future disposal route.

The aim of this work was to investigate alternative methods of sample preparation for trace elemental analysis on plutonium (Pu) bearing matrices. It was determined, based on a literature review, that the use of solid phase extraction (using UTEVA®

Resin by Eichrom Technologies Inc was the Best Available Technique (BAT) because it resembles the chemistry taking place during solvent extraction but eliminates the use of solvent.

Using existing analytical methodologies, proof-of-concept experiments were designed and carried out on multiple samples, blanks and standards.

Standards prepared using UTEVA® Resin showed similar levels of recovery to those prepared using solvent extraction for 32 different elements.

It was shown that 99.96% of Pu content was removed by the resin, and samples spiked with reference materials also showed satisfactory recoveries (i.e. trace elements were not retained by the resin alongside Pu).

The use of UTEVA® Resin had superior environmental factors to solvent extraction techniques which demonstrated green chemistry benefits.

The new method will be validated to enable UK Accreditation Service (UKAS) accreditation to ISO/IEC 17025 before SRP commissioning begins.

Further work is also planned to determine the levels of uranium and americium extraction by the resin to widen its applicability in analytical services.

UTEVA® Resin column rig

Glovebox for sample preparation using UTEVA® Resin

Improving preparation techniques for trace elemental analysis on plutonium samples

Reduced waste and reduced dose to operators by eliminating the use of solvents in the preparation of samples.

Proof of concept complete, method validation and future opportunities initiated.

University of Cumbria

James Oliver - [email protected]

Analytical services is burdened with a legacy of aqueous waste bottles generated during routine and R&D operations.

These bottles require characterising to enable assessments to be carried out to enable their disposal using a suitable waste stream.

A suitable waste route for our high alpha activity aqueous waste bottles is the Enhanced Actinide Removal Plant (EARP).

However, the EARP ultrafiltration bed is susceptible to citrate-bearing waste due to complex formation, resulting in deterioration of filtration performance.

One set of the waste bottles was generated from a routine historical operation that used a sodium citrate reagent.

An analytical method to determine citrate content is therefore required to quantify the citrate content for each waste bottle before the stream can be considered for disposal to EARP.

Ion chromatography was selected as the most suitable analytical technique for the project.

A suitable ion chromatography column was purchased and a bespoke analytical method was developed to separate all of the anions present in the aqueous mixture and resolve the citrate peak.

Analytical standards were prepared and the method was calibrated, and a full method validation carried out.Analysis of samples from the waste bottles were carried out and the data collated and submitted to the Low Active Effluent Management Group (LAEMG).

The data, combined with the higher EARP citrate limits (p20), will be used to assess which bottles can be discharged through the EARP and which bottles will need pre-treatment to destroy the citrate before approval for discharge.

The method can then be used to assess the effects of any treatment on the citrate concentration.

Chromatogram with citrate peak

Waste bottle store

Analytical services legacy waste bottles disposal programme

The project enables some of the legacy aqueous waste bottles to be potentially discharged through the EARP within the permitted citrate budget and thus protecting the ultrafiltration process.

Bottles with high citrate concentrations that require treatment, can be identified and the efficacy of the treatment monitored.

Analysis of the whole population of citrate-containing bottles is complete.


Mike Code - [email protected]

After studying combined arts (theology and philosophy) at Durham University, Katie became a trainee microbiologist before joining Sellafield Ltd in 2005 as a junior analyst in the analytical services mass spectrometrysection and has never looked back.

Katie gained her HND in applied chemistry while working at Sellafield Ltd on a day release scheme and has continued to develop her expertise and knowledge of mass spectrometry measurement techniques.

She is now an RSC Chartered Chemist, working on the development of new methods and instrumentation within analytical services.

Her role involves understanding future analysis requirements to support the instrument specifications for the Replacement Analytics Project (RAP), defining strategies for the analysis of future samples expected from the Sellafield Product and Residue Store Retreatment Plant (SRP), as well as providing support to the maintenance, breakdowns and fault- finding of instruments.

Katie has recently been looking at new and alternative sample preparation and analysis techniques to develop more efficient techniques that produce less waste.

Going forwards she will be investigating potential upgrades to current instrumentation to increase its life-expectancy, together with new methods to expand the type of samples that can be analysed in the future.

Katie is a member of the UK nuclear mass spectrometry users group and was awarded the RSC Industry Technician of the Year Award in 2020.

Ashley has been on secondment from NNL for 2 years and joined Sellafield Ltd at the beginning of 2022. He is one of the most experienced members of his laboratory and so oversees lots of training for new team members.

Ashley has an MChem in Chemistry from the University of Manchester and is an associate member of the Royal Society of Chemistry. He is currently applying to become a member and aiming to gain a chartership qualification.

In his role, he undertakes instrumental analysis on samples from around the Sellafield site, ensuring day to dayoperations are carried out within set parameters and that regulatory requirements are met.

A number of instruments are approaching the end of their lifecycles, so as part of Ashley’s role he also carries out the maintenance of old machines and has assisted in the installation and validation of new methods and machines.

Ashley has been preparing for the next phase of our future, including determining the changing analytical needs of the site and ensuring that we have the necessary capabilities.

As the Sellafield site moves into decommissioning, the work will become less routine as routine samples may produce results that are outside the expected range and require further investigation.

In order to increase the accuracy of analysis, Ashley devised amendments to greater match the calibration standards of the setup to the samples.

He is also creating a Fourier transform infrared library of chemicals on site that could be used to help identify any future unknown samples.

Acoustic Sensor Networks

Galson Sciences Ltd.

RED Engineering

Ada Mode

Graham Engineering Ltd.

Resolute Energy Solutions Ltd.

Anamad Ltd.

Holscot Fluoroplastics Ltd.

Romar Innovate Ltd.

Atkins Hybrid Instruments

Taylor Kightley Engineering Ltd.


Innovate UK

The University of Manchester

Boston Dynamics

Integrated Decommissioning Solutions

Thornton Tomasetti

Cavendish Nuclear Ltd.

IS-Instruments Ltd.

Trent University (Canada)

Clifton Photonics Ltd.

Lasermet Ltd.



Los Alamos National Laboratory


Cyan Tec Systems Ltd.

Loughborough University

University of Birmingham

Enterprise Ltd.

Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd.

Magnox Ltd.

University of Bristol

Environment Agency

National Nuclear Laboratory

University of Leeds

Fauske Associates (USA)

National Physical Laboratory

University of Liverpool

FIRMA Engineering Ltd.

Northumbria University

University of Oxford

FIS360 Ltd.

Nuclear Decommissioning Authority

University of Sheffield

Forth Engineering

Oceaneering International Services Ltd.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd

Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics

Office for Nuclear Regulation

AGR - Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor

AI - Artificial Intelligence

BAT - Best Available Technology or Technique

BEP - Box Encapsulation Plant

BNFL - British Nuclear Fuels Ltd.

CDT - Centre for Doctoral Training

CFD - Computational Fluid Dynamics

CHILW - Contact Handleable Intermediate Level Waste

CINDe - Centre for Innovative Nuclear Decommissioning

CM&I - Condition Monitoring and Inspection

CoE - Centre-of-Expertise

COTS - Commercial Off-The-Shelf

DSRL - Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd

EARP - Enhanced Actinides Removal Plant

EDS - Engineering Development Solutions

FIND - Future Innovation in Non-Destructive evaluation

FGMSP - First Generation Magnox Storage Pond

GDF - Geological Disposal Facility

GREEN - Growing skills for Reliable Economic Energy from Nuclear

HALES - Highly Active Liquor Evaporation and Storage

HEPA - High Efficiency Particle Air

IIND - Integrated Innovation in Nuclear Decommissioning

ILW - Intermediate Level Waste

IRT - Integrated Research Team

LLW- Low Level Waste

MEWP - Mobile Elevated Working Platform

MSSS - Magnox Swarf Storage Silo

NDA - Nuclear Decommissioning Authority

NEF - Nuclear Energy Futures

NNL - National Nuclear Laboratory

NPL - National Physical Laboratory

ONR - Office for Nuclear Regulation

POCO - Post Operational Clean- out

PVC - Polyvinyl chloride

RACE - Remote Applications in Challenging Environments

RAI - Robotics and Artificial Intelligence

RAICo - RAI Collaboration

R&D - Research and Development

ROV- Remotely Operated Vehicle

RrOBO - Risk Reduction of glovebox Operations

RSC - Royal Society of Chemistry

SFM - Spent Fuel Management

SIXEP - Site Ion Exchange Effluent Plant

SME - Small and Medium-sized Enterprise

SNM - Special Nuclear Material

SPARK - Sellafield Plutonium Application for the Retention of Knowledge

SQEP - Suitably Qualified and Experienced Personnel

SRP - Sellafield Product and Residue Store Retreatment Plant

STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

Thorp - Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant

TR&S - Thorp Receipt and Storage

TRANSCEND - Transformative Science and Engineering for Nuclear Decommissioning

TRL - Technology Readiness Level

UAV - Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

UKAEA - UK Atomic Energy Authority

US DoE - US Department of Energy

VR - Virtual Reality

WAGR - Windscale’s Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor