Modelling and Knowledge Management Challenge

Sellafield is the most complex industrial site requiring remediation in western Europe. Comprising approximately 700 acres, the site consists of more than 2,200 buildings including 170 major nuclear facilities.

As reprocessing operations cease, the major focus will shift to Post Operational Clean Out (POCO), waste management and decommissioning activities.

Due to the variety of complex operations performed at Sellafield a wide range of challenges will need to be addressed, some of which might be solved with the introduction of innovative digital solutions, including:

•  Real time monitoring of waste treatment and clean up
•  Communication with remote devices, plus tools and sensors that can be deployed in harsh environments
•  Characterisation, data management and optimised planning
•  Monitoring of buildings – interconnected array to provide real time monitoring and surveillance of buildings

The Modelling and Knowledge Management Challenge Statements (right) introduce the challenges associated with the dismantling, size reduction and decommissioning of the legacy nuclear plants on the Sellafield site.

Sellafield Ltd seeks to work with industry, SMEs, academia and larger organisations to create a diverse tool-kit of smart technology and digital solutions to support the decommissioning programme. The document has been created to provide information on:

•  The identified high-level challenges which could immediately benefit from smart technologies and digital solutions
•  Current baseline technologies which are available for use today
•  Limitations of current baseline technologies, that could potentially be addressed with innovation
•  Perceived gaps with the existing approaches and suggestions on areas where there is an opportunity for innovative solutions

Sellafield Ltd and Game Changers are inviting enquiries and applications from companies who are focused in smart technologies and digital solutions, typically in the fields of:

•  Real time radiometric measurement of gaseous effluent
•  Aerial gas sensor specialists
•  Detectors and sensor networks
•  Big data, analytics, data mining
•  Legacy dataset conversion
•  Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality
•  Imaging and modelling
•  Automated monitoring and testing
•  Robotics
•  Remote asset care and monitoring
•  Reducing energy / raw material consumption

What do we mean by innovation?

We are seeking to engage with companies with the knowledge, experience, ideas, solutions and/or early stage technologies which might help accelerate the decommissioning programme at Sellafield. These can be SMEs or large corporations, academia or individuals.

Rather than limit the scope to only those with experience in the nuclear and decommissioning arena, innovation in this instance might be the technologies and approaches successfully deployed and proven in other sectors. The transfer of knowledge and technologies from other industries is something we wish to actively encourage.

We know, for example, that commonalities exist in the decommissioning of large and complex oil and gas facilities, many with similar dependencies and cost and safety considerations.

Sellafield Ltd also welcome completely novel ideas and concepts: the early stage and emerging technologies that will truly be ‘game changers’.

The Modelling and Knowledge Management Vision

Imagine if we had access to all the information we required to make accurate, informed decisions about the full scope of the decommissioning challenges in front of us; we could put that information into tools that would allow us to run, or even evaluate, scenarios from which we can make detailed plans and commit resources accordingly.

This would enable us to tackle our challenges with a much higher degree of confidence and with the assurance that we know what to expect; that we’ve been able to practice in a highly realistic synthetic environment, so when humans or our remote tools are deployed they are able to carry out operations in a safe, efficient and optimal way with respect to a health, environment, costs and time.

Sellafield’s vision is to challenge the baseline and determine optimised Post Operational Clean Out (POCO) and decommissioning strategies. The objective is to provide mechanisms to enable optioneering and scenario modelling in support of strategy development and decision making for POCO and decommissioning

The Business Benefit

The old adage is that knowledge is power: in the case of the clean-up and decommissioning at Sellafield, lack of knowledge can lead to:

  • additional or extended operations where situations encountered are not as assumed or anticipated;
  • increased risk to human operators if they encounter unexpected hazardous materials;
  • increased risk to operators having to exit and re-enter harsh environment due to new information.

Furthermore, where uncertainty exists, in order to maintain the highest level of safety there is a tendency to assume worst case scenarios leading to solutions that might be over-engineered.

Over-engineering, re-work and manual operations add cost and time to the Sellafield programme and can impact on operator dose uptake and environmental discharges, as well as the ‘knock-on’ effect to subsequent decommissioning activities.

Being able to access appropriate and accurate measurements, and/or make judgements in real time from remote locations, provides Sellafield with the ability to make informed decisions and make significant improvements to their baseline cost, time, health and environmental performance.

Due to the challenging nature of the environments this will only be achieved through innovative solutions in deployment, information transfer, management and presentation.