Robot deployed into Magnox Swarf Storage Silo

10 October 2017

A robot has been sent into Sellafield's most hazardous nuclear waste store for the first time. The Avexis will help dislodge and clear waste from the Magnox Swarf Storage Silo, Sellafield Sites announced today.

The Avexis robot is lowered into a compartment at the Magnox Swarf Storage Silo (Image: Sellafield Ltd)

The Magnox Swarf Storage Silo was built in Cumbria, England in the 1960s to store waste from the UK's earliest nuclear reactors. It closed in 2000 and has now been prioritised for clean-up by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. It is the first time a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) has been deployed inside the building. Sellafield Sites said.

The robot - which can 'see' inside the silo via cameras attached to its body and also clear away small bits of waste clinging to the silo wall - was developed by Cumbrian firm Forth Engineering with support from the University of Manchester. Maryport-based Forth Engineering specialises in remote tooling, deployment methods, and sensor systems.

The company's founder, Mark Telford, said: "The site needs innovative methods for undertaking engineering tasks in harsh environments underwater. Other industries like marine and oil and gas are also looking for similar products. Successfully deploying our technology at Sellafield means we can transfer it to these other industries and grow our customer base."

Rebecca Weston, strategy and technical director for Sellafield Ltd, said the Avexis shows how the supply chain can help reduce the UK's nuclear hazard "faster, cheaper and more safely". It also shows how companies can use Sellafield as a "springboard into international export markets", she added.

The Avexis, which is small enough to fit through spaces of 150mm, is the first robot of its kind "to go from concept to market" within five years, Sellafield Sites said. And, at £10,000 ($13,177), it is also the cheapest of its kind, it added.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News