Veolia Nuclear Solutions UK (VNS-UK) won the prestigious 2017 NDA Export Award for the design of the remote handling solution for the investigation work as part of the fuel debris retrieval at Fukushima Daiichi, Unit 2.
The work being delivered by the UK subsidiary company, Oxford Technologies, in conjunction with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), is for the investigation of the internals of the stricken reactor, and the development of a robotic access device with a range of tools, all based on the proven approach of the company’s heritage in fusion at JET, and current work in NDA decommissioning projects at Sellafield and Dounreay.
A table-top model of VNS-UK’s Dounreay Site Intervention Platform, brought down from Dounreay specially for the exhibition, attracted considerable interest at the company’s stand in the Innovation Zone.
The award was presented by DIT Director of Energy and UK infrastructure, Keir Campbell, with Ron Gorham, NDA’s Head of Supply Chain Optimisation to Mark Sharpe VNS-UK, Sales Director.
As part of its expansion strategy, Veolia Nuclear Solutions (VNS-UK), which now incorporates remote handling solutions consultancy Oxford Technologies, has hired no less than ten highly skilled engineering graduates in the last 12 months – and will soon start the search for the 2018 intake.
VNS-UK currently employs over 70 staff at its Abingdon HQ, which delivered the world’s first remote handling equipment to operate inside a nuclear fusion reactor, and is now actively involved throughout the nuclear clean-up process, from initial site investigation, through radioactive materials processing and stabilisation, to nuclear facility decommissioning and waste management, training and operations.
VNS-UK MD, David Loughborough, comments:
“The success of our business depends on employing the best engineering talent to solve some of the biggest environmental challenges the world faces – so we are delighted to welcome these new recruits to our team.”
A team of engineers at Oxford Technologies is tackling one of the many engineering challenges involved in transforming the science of fusion energy into engineering reality at ITER: in this case developing a compliant wrench that can be remotely operated to tighten and loosen the bolts which hold the blanket modules which shield the walls of the tokamak.
The 440 blanket modules cover an area of 800m2 and are a critical part of the design as they cover the inner walls of the vessel, protecting the structure from the heat flux generated by the plasma.
Each of the modules, which are typically over a metre square and weigh several tonnes, consists of a detachable first wall panel, facing the hot plasma, and a shield block which forms the structure of the module as well as housing the cooling water channels.
Furthermore, due to the complexity of the geometry, the alignments of the holding bolts will vary on each panel and the wrench must therefore be able to cope with misalignment in vertical and lateral planes as well as angular misalignment.
As Stephen Sanders, Access Global Marketing & Business Development Director, explains; “One of the greatest advantages that OTL offers is our ability to pull together multi-disciplinary teams to enable the development of creative, new solutions to completely new problems.”
NDA Strategy and Technology Director, Dr. Adrian Simper OBE, visited Oxford Technologies Limited at its Abingdon facility recently, to discuss future global opportunities for UK companies in the Nuclear Decommissioning sector and to see first-hand the capability that OTL brings to this growing market. Adrian commented: “I was particularly interested to be able to visit OTL’s Assembly and Test Facility to see the very impressive Dounreay Shaft Intervention Platform, which is in the process of assembly prior to final testing.”
In his opening presentation, Mark Sharpe gave a brief overview of OTL, including its relationship with Kurion and French parent company Veolia, which is now able to provide complete solutions in both nuclear facility clean-up and the treatment of low and medium-level radio-active waste.
Within the Veolia Group OTL’s area of expertise lies in the provision of remote handling solutions in hazardous environments and it was to see examples of these capabilities that the NIA visitors made their way to the 1000m2 Abingdon site, where large scale prototypes and mock-ups, including those for nuclear decommissioning sites, are developed and tested.
During the visit, several visitors tried their hand at operating Dexter, OTL’s remote handling unit, before returning to the Abingdon Hotel, for a buffet lunch and an afternoon of excellent presentations, followed by the OTL/NIS Group co-sponsored reception at the NI dinner, all of which were much appreciated by the attendees.
As Peter BERBEN, deputy head Nuclear Liabilities – Radwaste & Decommissioning at ENGIE, Electrabel, commented; “I was impressed to see the number of attendees at the NIA event, with more than 130 people listening to the excellent presentations. I particularly appreciated the focus on Germany, as ENGIE affiliate, Tecnubel, operates in that market, and it was good to exchange views and experiences.”
“In the morning I took the opportunity to visit Oxford Technologies’ Assembly, Integration and Test facility, where I saw its state-of-the-art Master-Slave manipulator and had the opportunity to test and sense its capabilities for myself. I am now looking forward to exploring further business opportunities between our two companies, both in and beyond Germany.”
While Oxford Technologies is continuing its involvement in a number of Europe’s most advanced Fusion and High Energy Physics projects (for example ITER, MYRRHA at SCK-CEN and CERN in Geneva) now, as part of Kurion-Veolia, it is also helping to provide solutions to some of the world’s most challenging issues of waste access and treatment at sites including Sellafield, Dounreay, Hanford (USA), La Hague (France) and Fukushima (Japan).
Bringing together the strengths and expertise of Kurion-Veolia and Oxford Technologies has created a world-leading remote handling organisation.
If you are in Prague for the Symposium, please do come and visit us on Stand 16