Dounreay explores decommissioning with robotics experts

The nuclear site in the north of Scotland, which was the centre of the UK’s research into fast reactor technology in the last century, is being cleaned up and taken apart. The most contaminated areas of the site are found in the Fuel Cycle Area (FCA) facilities, which examined and reprocessed spent nuclear fuel. The nature of the facilities means that the most contaminated areas are generally also the most inaccessible.

The site is collaborating with the Robotics and Artificial Intelligence in Nuclear (RAIN) Hub, a consortium of universities led by the University of Manchester, to explore ways to overcome some of these challenges.

A group of scientists from RAIN carried out trials earlier this year in the FCA laboratories of a small remotely operated vehicle (ROV) equipped with sensors, cameras and a manipulator ‘arm’, which provided useful information.

Jason Simpson, project manager for the decommissioning of the laboratories, said:

The legacy of the operations in our labs is that we have areas of contamination that are very radioactive and difficult to access using our normal procedures. These decommissioning challenges could be addressed using robotics and we are pleased to be working with the RAIN Hub to find solutions.

A survey of the under-floor drains in the laboratories is planned for later in the year.

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