Innovation in Analytical Services Technologies and Techniques
The Sellafield site has played a central role in the history of the nuclear industry in the United Kingdom. Analytical Services has supported the Sellafield Site throughout all operational phases; the nuclear weapons programme, civil power generation, nuclear fuel reprocessing and site remediation and decommissioning.
Current analytical operations take place in a facility that is 70 year’s old, employing processes that were developed 30 to 40 years ago. The end of re-processing operations in 2020 will initiate a ramping up of remediation and de-commissioning activities bringing new challenges to Analytical Services. Most of the current analytical protocols are suitable for homogeneous samples of known matrix and established provenance but future samples are likely to be heterogeneous, and there could be limited understanding of matrix and provenance.
New analytical work supporting POCO (Post Operational Clean Out), remediation and decommissioning are likely to be investigative in nature whereas the majority of current work is predictable and supportive of routine operations.
Sellafield’s Analytical Services Teams are looking for opportunities to improve on the existing technologies in order to meet future demands.
A decision has been made to phase out operations in the current Analytical Services Laboratory (ASL) and the majority of the future work will be performed in the National Nuclear Laboratory Central Lab (NNLCL). NNLC is being significantly re-fitted to meet this demand.
There is also likely to be an increased contribution from the analytical supply chain for the lower activity work. The end of reprocessing and the move to NNLCL is coinciding with a revolution in computer technology incorporating artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, autonomous vehicles etc.
The timing of the changes has created a technological point of inflection for analytical work at Sellafield and it is vital that operations in the NNLCL exploit the latest developments to improve the efficiency, safety and quality of analytical work.
The challenge is to explore and develop new techniques and provide fit for purpose instruments capable of supporting both current and future analytical requirements.
An Analytical Hierarchy was developed to direct future analytical operations and associated Research and Development (R&D). This hierarchy was produced with an understanding of recent advancements in the nuclear analytical arena. The principles prescribed in the hierarchy are being used to direct the analytical development work for the refitted NNLCL but this work is based upon known technologies.
There will be new emerging technologies that have the potential to radically change the approach to analysis that Sellafield may be oblivious to.
It is important that the technologies are assessed and understood so that the benefits can be achieved at the earliest opportunity.
The challenge statements are grouped as follows and are designed to stimulate thinking:
Challenge AS1 : Development of existing techniques to further implement, underpin and deliver the analytical hierarchy.
Challenge AS2 : Development of new techniques to further implement, underpin and deliver the Analytical Hierarchy.
Challenge AS3 : Utilise recent development in IT, computing and energy storage technology to transform the analytical operations.
Challenge AS4 : Develop new design solutions for Analytical Services facilities to improve efficiency and operability at reduced cost.
New ideas are crucial to the success of any business and Sellafield Limited is keen that as many ideas as possible are heard, discussed and developed.