Game-changing innovation for waste containers

Three industry partnerships are developing new waste container concepts which could prove game-changing for the decommissioning programme at Sellafield.

The projects are the result of the Game Changers challenge event hosted by the Nuclear AMRC in early 2017. The event aimed to stimulate fresh thinking among manufacturers and engineers on how to increase efficiency and reduce cost for waste containers used in the UK’s decommissioning programme.

A large part of the challenge at Sellafield and other decommissioning sites involves the efficient and safe movement and storage of radioactive waste, ranging from wet sludge to large items of machinery and building components. Sellafield Ltd expects to spend up to £4 billion during decommissioning, based on the high cost of current stainless steel containers, so production savings could mean significant savings for the taxpayer.

Following the event, companies submitted 29 funding applications to the Game Changers programme, with 18 receiving £5,000 initial grants to develop their ideas. Seven were then identified by Sellafield Ltd as being of clear interest, and combined into three collaborative projects which have now been awarded proof-of-concept funding.

The first project is led by Heatric, part of the Meggitt Group, which will develop a solid-state joining technique for the top flange of waste containers (above). Heatric believes its diffusion bonding technology, which it currently uses to produce compact heat exchangers, can address a weak point in waste container production while reducing costs.

The second project will develop an innovative steel container of completely new design. Design engineers Eadon Consulting, filter manufacturer GFSA, and welding specialists Arc Energy Resources say the cylindrical design (below) can provide greater ease of use and minimise through-life costs, while allowing volume manufacture to meet Sellafield’s requirements.

The third project will investigate a potential new generation of fibre-reinforced concrete waste container, and brings together Amber Precast, LKAB Minerals and construction specialist RWS, with additional support from Tarmac. The project includes a full review of the latest concrete admixture technology and identification of appropriate test methods to evaluate the suitability of new materials for use in nuclear decommissioning.

The seven companies are now developing their concepts through testing and trials, with support from Sellafield Ltd and the National Nuclear Laboratory.

“Through this process, we have been able to explain our needs to a wide range of potential suppliers and are funding three partnerships and engagement continues throughout,” says Ciara Walsh, waste integration manager at Sellafield Ltd. “It has enabled Sellafield Ltd to work with suppliers in a different way that has accelerated progress through to proof of concept stage.”

Three of the manufacturers – Heatric, Arc Energy Resources and RWS – have previously worked with the Nuclear AMRC through the Fit For Nuclear programme.

New R&D centre for Derby

The Nuclear AMRC has signed an agreement with Derby City Council and local stakeholders to establish a new industrial R&D centre at the city’s Infinity Park.

The proposed new centre will complement the capabilities of the Nuclear AMRC’s core research factory on the Advanced Manufacturing Park in Rotherham, and its modularisation R&D facility in Birkenhead. It will also draw on the wider capabilities of the University of Sheffield AMRC cluster of advanced manufacturing centres, including the AMRC with Boeing and the AMRC Training Centre.

Infinity Park is a 100 acre technology park to the south of Derby, and part of the Nottingham and Derby Enterprise Zone. The Nuclear AMRC will initially take space in Infinity Park’s iHub facility, to develop technology demonstrators and test ideas before committing to a full-scale bespoke facility of around 5,000 square metres.

“A new facility will give us the space to establish industrial pull and develop new capabilities in technology themes such as digital controls and instrumentation, advanced simulation, equipment qualification and construction,” says Andrew Storer, Nuclear AMRC chief executive officer.

“The new centre will also act as a regional hub for on-the-ground support to manufacturers of all sizes. We have already helped dozens of Midlands-based manufacturers become Fit For Nuclear through our supply chain development programme, and want to work with even more to support their ambitions in nuclear and other high-value sectors.”

Infinity Park is located alongside the global headquarters of Rolls-Royce, the Nuclear AMRC’s founding industrial member, in the UK’s largest cluster of advanced manufacturing.

According to the Midlands Engine partnership, the region’s economy is based on a globally-significant advanced manufacturing base serving sectors such as energy, aerospace, automotive and rail, generating 31 per cent of the UK’s exports in machinery and transport.

“The location is important – there is a lot of talk about the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine, and we can join these through our Birkenhead, Rotherham and Derby facilities,” Storer says. “We work with manufacturing companies large and small to help them win work in the nuclear sector, and to de-risk investments in new technologies which can be applied across a host of industries. A new facility in Derby will give us an incredible opportunity for cross-sector activities to expand our work into new areas of research.”

The Nuclear AMRC has now signed an agreement with Derby City Council and the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership, and is planning a cross-sector launch event at the iHub facility in June.

The agreement will support Derby City Council and D2N2’s strategy for improving the region’s economic growth, skills and jobs. D2N2 is allocating £12.9 million to Infinity from its Local Growth Fund allocation over six years to improve infrastructure on the site.

“The iHub is a real beacon for innovation and growth and is now home to some of the most inspiring SMEs from across the UK’s planes, trains and automobiles sector. With Rolls-Royce and many other of high-tech companies in the area, it makes perfect sense to house the new innovation centre close by on Infinity Park,” says Councillor Martin Rawson, cabinet member for regeneration and the economy. “We hope that AMRC’s expertise for research and innovation, coupled with the city’s strong skills base, will reinforce Derby’s reputation as the go-to place for global manufacturing companies and act as a catalyst for attracting even more high-tech engineering and manufacturing companies to Infinity Park.”

“Our work alongside the other centres in the University of Sheffield AMRC has made the Sheffield City Region a magnet for smart inward investors,” Storer adds. “With the support of Derby City Council and D2N2, our plan is to create that same impact here at Infinity Park in Derby.

“For me, this is doubly exciting as I started work as an apprentice very close to here, so hopefully this will inspire the next generation of talented engineers – boys and girls – to continue the tradition for advanced manufacturing in Derby and the Midlands Engine.”

Nuclear industry rewards young talent

Sellafield manufacturing apprentice Aidan Bennett was among the young stars of the nuclear industry celebrating their achievements at the UK Nuclear Skills Awards.

Bennett was awarded Manufacturing Apprentice of the Year, sponsored by the Nuclear AMRC, after completing a mechanical manufacture engineering and mechanical maintenance apprenticeshipwith Sellafield Ltd. He is now working as a manufacture machinist.

L-R: Roger Lewis, Sellafield; Richard Caborn, Nuclear AMRC; Aidan Bennett; awards host Julia Bradbury.

Runners-up for the manufacturing award were Matthew Ravenscroft from Rolls-Royce and Ryan Edgely from BAE Systems.

The awards, organised by the National Skills Academy for Nuclear (NSAN) and Cogent Skills and held in Manchester, brought the nuclear industry together to celebrate the success and high achievement of individuals nominated for awards in apprentice and graduate disciplines.

“The UK Nuclear Skills Awards highlights the exceptional quality of people of all levels who are committed to careers in the nuclear sector,” said Jo Tipa, managing director of NSAN. “The dinner also highlights the vital work done by the training and education professionals working in and with the nuclear industry across the UK. I would like to personally congratulate all of the winners and finalists, they are all inspirational examples of the talent that exists in our sector.  I wish them all the very best for the future.”

Benjamin Crane of Urenco UK took the UK Nuclear Apprentice of the Year award, as well as Engineering Apprentice of the Year.

The other winners were Amy Mayor of BAE Systems, Business Service Apprentice of the Year; Daniel Hagan of Sellafield Ltd, Scientific Apprentice of the Year; Naomi Pulfrey of BAE Systems, Science Graduate of the Year; James Cross of BAE Systems, Engineering Graduate of the Year; Charlotte Burman of the Ministry of Defence, Postgraduate Student of the Year; and Lauren Eastburn and Beth Howarth-Henry, both from BAE Systems, STEM Ambassador Award.