Bluetooth joins sub for decommissioning

16 January 2014

A mini-submarine with wireless connectivity is being used to transmit live data on conditions in a legacy fuel storage pond at the UK's Sellafield site. The company says this is a first for its decommissioning program.

Sellafield ROV mini sub (Sellafield Ltd)_460
Sellafield's mini-sub (Image: Sellafield Ltd)

The mini-sub is one of the first of a fleet of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) supporting decommissioning at the site, where it is being used to retrieve data on liquor conditions and to monitor visibility in the First Generation Magnox Storage Pond. The pond, which dates back to the 1950s, contains used nuclear fuel, radioactive sludges, miscellaneous nuclear wastes and fuel containers and presents complex decommissioning challenges.

The mini-sub deploys a probe which can sample up to seven different variables at any one time. Deploying the probe with a ROV helps to provide a "more 3D-like data stream" to the decommissioning team, Sellafield Ltd technical specialist Marcus Coupe said. It is providing invaluable insights into the challenge of the legacy ponds where any loss of visibility can potentially cause a significant risk to operations as well as potentially slowing down future retrievals, he noted.

Marrying the submarine ROV with Bluetooth wireless communication technology is a first for nuclear decommissioning at Sellafield. Project leader Xavier Poteau said that the work could potentially pave the way forward for the use of other in-situ techniques as well as wireless monitoring of effluents. "A lot more can be done combining commercially available equipment that are not usually tagged as nuclear-ready," he said.

Robots are proving increasingly useful for nuclear decommissioning work in areas that are hard to access conventionally, both underwater and in dry conditions. They range in size and function from the Charli ROV deployed inside the reactor vessel of France's Superphénix fast neutron reactor to carry out cutting work to crawler-mounted robots being used to survey inaccessible areas at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News