The Centre for Innovative Nuclear Decommissioning (CINDe), led by the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) in collaboration with Sellafield Ltd has celebrated a prestigious honour from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

Established in 2017, CINDe is a research hub for PhD students based at NNL’s  Workington facility in Cumbria. The programme works closely with the University of Manchester, Lancaster University, the University of Liverpool and the University of Cumbria to address decommissioning issues.

After being bestowed the ‘best people strategy award’ at the virtual NDA group supply chain awards 2022 in February, representatives from the scheme were finally able to collect the much-anticipated award at the ninth NDA group supply chain event on the 21 July after being postponed due to Covid-19.

The CINDe team is both multi-national and multidisciplinary bringing a rich variety of expertise and perspectives; and the accolade is recognition of the value students have added to the technical skills generation, particularly in Cumbria and across the North West of England.

Known as the biggest networking event in Europe for nuclear decommissioning, the supply chain event has attracted around 10,000 visitors from more than 20 countries to date, representing the industry both large and small. As well as celebrating CINDe’s award, NNL hosted an exhibition stand at the conference, presenting a range of innovative projects currently underway.

The impressive Kinova robot displayed at the event is one example of the equipment on offer at NNL’s facility, which is suitable for both research and industrial use to support operators in glovebox environments. By performing dexterous handling and manipulation tasks in place of humans, the robotics can reduce or eliminate the risk of harm.

Across the nuclear sector, NNL is developing new and pioneering solutions to reduce the contact dose to operators when handling radioactive materials. Over the past year, the lab has been working with Cumbrian small/medium-sized enterprise (SME), Resolve Robotics, to build a pair of mechanical hands. Created to support the European Space Agency’s (ESA) forthcoming lunar mission in the first instance, this technology will be deployed in applications beyond space in the future, with potential usage on the NDA estate.

The mechanical hands allow glovebox operatives to conduct experiments with highly active materials, whilst minimising the amount of contact dose an operator may be exposed to. By removing the human hands away from the material and still enabling dexterous control, an operator can perform tasks with line of sight whilst remaining safe.

Discussing and demonstrating these projects at the supply chain event provided an opportunity for NNL to network with more than 300 exhibiting companies on the day; and potential to attract new business into the nuclear decommissioning sector to help meet the government’s net zero ambitions.

Visitors at NNL’s stand were also interested to hear about the GeoMelt test rig, housed at Central Laboratory. It provides an alternative to cementitious encapsulation and can be used to thermally treat a variety of intermediate level waste streams. NNL is working with a wide variety of customers, such as the NDA, Sellafield Ltd, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the European Commission, to identify potential wastes to test and optimise operational parameters using thermal treatment processes.

Keen to collaborate with industry partners with fresh ideas and approaches to address the challenges facing the sector, NNL’s laboratories help to develop leading technologies suitable for deployment at all scales and levels of radioactivity. As an equal opportunity employer, NNL is expanding rapidly to meet the demand of the nuclear renaissance, seeking to attract the best talent to continue this fantastic work.

Environmental restoration is one of the four focus areas outlined in NNL’s recent Strategic Plan, acting as a key service to the NDA estate which is a major proportion of the work NNL delivers as a national laboratory.

Anthony Banford, Chief Technologist (Waste Management & Decommissioning) who leads CINDe for NNL, said:

“It’s great that CINDe has been selected as the winner in a very competitive category, recognising our unique training and development programme. Post graduate researchers working on CINDe are an asset to the nuclear sector and it’s because of their hard work we have achieved this accolade. This includes all the project supervisors who have played pivotal roles in the success of the scheme, thank you to all involved.”

Lindsay Edmiston, Head of Capability for Waste Management & Decommissioning at NNL, said:

“What a privilege to accept this award at the NDA group supply chain event whilst engaging with industry leaders about the important and innovative work we are doing to develop the experts of the future. NNL will continue championing the environmental restoration focus area, aligning to the government agenda to reduce the cost of decommissioning.”