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Thu May 06 2021

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NDA shortlists decommissioning ideas

3 Aug 17 Robots, drones and lasers are among the technologies being proposed for deployment in Sellafield’s impending nuclear clean-up.

Drones and robots are among the proposals for cleaning up Sellafield
Drones and robots are among the proposals for cleaning up Sellafield

Over the next few years several major plants at the Sellafield nuclear power station will come to the end of their operational life, including the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP) and Magnox reprocessing plants, which are used to reprocess nuclear waste.

The decommissioning difficulties involved with safely handling contaminated vessels and miles of radioactive steelwork prompted the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) to lay down a challenge to the industry: how do we do it?

The competition set out to find and fund technology that will clean up the Sellafield cells as safely, quickly and cost-effectively as possible whilst minimising risks to the workforce.

The NDA has now shortlisted 15 ideas and is providing £3m for them to be worked up.

The shortlisted entries (below), many of which come from companies that have never worked in the nuclear industry before, now have three months to develop their ideas for a chance to move on to the next stage.

The winning technologies will need to find ways of safely accessing the cells, surveying the contents, cleaning them out and putting the radioactive waste into packages for safe storage. The proposals feature the use of leading-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, robots, drones, lasers and specialised remote sensors and detectors.

Although initially focused on Sellafield, the winning ideas could be used to clean up the other nuclear sites owned by the NDA, which date back to the earliest days of the UK nuclear industry.

NDA head of technology Melanie Brownridge said: “This competition is an amazing opportunity for creative, forward-thinking and innovative companies to collaborate and come up with cutting-edge solutions for cleaning up some of the UK’s most complex nuclear sites.

“The NDA is continually seeking the best ways to encourage new ideas from the supply chain and ensure everyone has an opportunity to get involved. The response we have had to this competition has been fantastic. We’ve been really impressed by the standard of proposals and the healthy numbers of applicants.

“I’m also extremely encouraged by the high level of interest from organisations outside the nuclear sector, offering highly innovative solutions from industries such as the oil and gas sector, defence industries and even space exploration.”

Shortlisted entries

Lead contractor

Project title

AN Technology

A Flexible Measurement and Waste Led, Robotics-Based Decommissioning Project

Amec Foster Wheeler

Integrated Innovation for Nuclear Decommissioning


Barrnon Integrated Decommissioning System

Cavendish Nuclear

Sellafield In-Cell Decommissioning System (SIDS)

Costain Oil, Gas and Process

Stabilisation, Excavation and Segregation


Elephants to Ants: Innovation in Integration

Davy Markham

Integrated & Transferable Decommissioning Toolkit

Eadon Consulting

Versatile Decommissioning System (VDS)

James Fisher Nuclear

Hot Hatch Cell Recovery

MDA Space & Robotics




Oliver Crispin Robotics


Rovtech Solutions

Integrated Keyhole Remote Decommissioning System

University of the West of England

Integrated robotic system for characterisation and decommissioning

Westinghouse Electric Company UK

Integrated Innovation for Nuclear Decommissioning

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