UK turns to satellites to support nuclear cleanup work

01 November 2019

The UK Space Agency and Nuclear Decommissioning Agency (NDA) have issued a challenge to smaller businesses and university start-ups to research and develop satellite-enabled technologies that could help support the country's nuclear decommissioning efforts.

The initiative wants to use satellite earth observation data to enable solutions for asset management challenges at decommissioning sites (Image: NASA Earth Observatory)

The Nuclear Decommissioning Space Data Challenge will encourage smaller businesses and university start-ups to research and develop satellite-enabled technologies that could help support the UK’s nuclear decommissioning efforts.

The Space Data Challenge is looking for technical proposals demonstrating potential solutions to one or more of four challenges: rooftop inspections - remote sensing of difficult to access, potentially dangerous environments; building site plan updates - regular and automated updates of building layouts; bulk container identification - using satellite imagery to count containers and monitor them; and on-site traffic management - identifying vehicles on sites and where they are parked.

The challenge is part of the UK Space Agency's Space for Smarter Government Programme which aims to increase the use of space technologies in the public sector to improve policy making and efficiency. The winning concept or prototype will receive specialist space and business development support worth GBP10,000 (USD12,900) from the Satellite Applications Catapult, sponsored by the NDA, to help the product to market. The Satellite Applications Catapult is one of ten "catapults" established to transform the UK's capability for innovation in specific areas and to help drive future economic growth. It helps organisations make use of, and benefit from, satellite technologies, and bring together multi-disciplinary teams to generate ideas and solutions in an "open innovation" environment, and aims to support UK industry by accelerating the growth of satellite applications and to contribute to capturing a 10% share of the global space market by 2030.

The Space for Smarter Government Programme provides opportunities for public sector organisations to access satellite imagery to explore the art of the possible with their colleagues, Emily Gravestock, head of applications strategy at the UK Space Agency, said. "This partnership with the NDA is a great example of how this data can be used in a novel way, with the potential to support one of the most important environmental restoration projects in the world," she added.

The NDA is the first public sector organisation to collaborate with the UK Space Agency on this challenge, NDA Head of Innovation Sara Huntingdon said. "Remote monitoring is just one example of the uses of satellite technology that could benefit the nuclear sector. There are so many opportunities here which we could explore," she said.

NDA Technology and Innovation Director Melanie Brownridge said the UK Space Agency had attended NDA supply chain events for the past two years. "We're committed to encouraging the development of ideas for decommissioning, and to working with other industrial sectors on the exchange or adaptation of technologies."

The deadline for proposals is 16 December. Applicants who are successful in the first stage will be invited to pitch their ideas to a judging panel of representatives from the UK Space Agency and the NDA Group.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News