UK announces nuclear waste competition winners

Article by Amanda Jasi

FOURTEEN companies have won contracts in a £3.9m (US$5.5m) competition aimed at developing a waste toolkit that will contribute to meeting the aims of the nation’s nuclear sector deal.

The  “Sort and Segregate Nuclear Waste” competition – set up in partnership between Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), Magnox, Sellafield Ltd and Innovate UK – involves developing an autonomous and integrated toolkit to sort and segregate mixed radioactive waste generated by nuclear decommissioning activities. This is expected to help reduce the level of waste requiring disposal, increase productivity, reduce costs, and improve safety. The competition is funded by NDA.

The winning consortia succeeded in the first phase of the competition, which involved devising proposals for a toolkit. They have each been awarded contracts worth up to £60,000 (with a total of £600,000 available at this phase). Each of the winning consortia will now develop feasibility studies for their proposals, which include technology such as robotics, advanced sensors, and artificial intelligence.

In the second phase of the competition, four research and development contracts are available for a full-scale prototype in a non-radioactive environment. The contracts are worth up to £900,000 each, with the demonstration projects expected to run for 15 months. Initial feasibility studies are expected to be delivered in May.

The successful business in the overall programme will be expected to pursue commercialisation of its technology. The winning groups of Phase 1 include Atkins, Cavendish Nuclear, EDF Energy R&D Centre, Jacobs Clean Energy, Nuvia, and Veolia Nuclear Solutions.

Derek Allen, Innovation Lead, and Energy Clean Growth and Infrastructure Lead  at Innovate UK, commented: “The response to the competition was excellent and some really exciting projects have been funded. There are some great examples of technology transfer and I look forward to seeing these innovative projects progress over the next few months.”

In a joint release, NDA, Magnox, Sellafield Ltd and Innovate UK said they believe challenges such as this are an important route for engaging the nuclear supply chain. Additionally, they said the challenges encourage diverse thinking, and help find innovative techniques and technologies from other sectors to help deliver NDA’s decommissioning mission and meet the aims of the Nuclear Sector Deal. The £200m nuclear sector deal unveiled in 2018 seeks to drive down costs, and increase innovation and work diversity.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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