Summer 2016

Radiating experience

James Fisher Nuclear has been selected for the UK's most prestigious national decommissioning challenge in a move which cements its central position in the industry.

All eyes are on Winfrith's Steam Generating Heavy Water Reactor (SGHWR) as being only the second nuclear power reactor core to be approved for decommissioning in the UK, and now the National Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has selected JFN to develop and deliver the technical solution to remotely segment and load its waste packages and safely package the reactor core.

This significant £60m new contract win for JFN represents one of the largest value decommissioning projects to have been granted in the UK in recent years. In the eyes of the industry, this firmly establishes JFN as the UK's leading contractor in reactor decommissioning implementation. 

Nuclear decommissioning industry

The first such decommissioning project was at Sellafield - the Windscale Advanced Gas Cooled Reactor - a job completed in the late 1990s by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd in partnership with JFN, which supplied the remote tooling needed to segment it.

However, this new four-year contract is to design and produce the equipment needed to segment and package the redundant SGHWR core. It was won after a tough competitive tendering process.

JFN commercial director, Steve Tulk, led the bid team (supported by JFN technical director, Geoff Ashworth and technical experts from JFN's Malton office in Yorkshire) to fight off heavy competition from a number of top European companies for the business.

JF Nuclear's expertise

With more than 20 other reactor cores in the UK still awaiting a decision on their decommissioning fate, this contract win illustrates market confidence in JFN to deliver the most economic and technically advantageous solutions for the nuclear industry in a safe, environmentally and socially responsible manner.

Paul Read, JFN's managing director says,

'This contract further heightens our profile, reflecting the team's hard work to become a market leader and supplier of choice. It cements JFN's position as an established nuclear industry supplier, well placed to support the NDA on a portfolio of further decommissioning contracts due in the forthcoming years.'

Although Winfrith's reactor was shut down in 1990 and has been subjected to various de-fuelling and decommissioning operations since, JFN will now be preparing the cutting-up and packaging of the reactor core so the site can be returned to green field state.

The bulk of the core is categorised as 'intermediate level waste' which has to be handled remotely by machines, unlike 'low level waste' which can be handled by people wearing protective equipment. This makes it a technically challenging project.

Steve Tulk explains,

'We have to design, build, install and commission equipment to be located over the reactor which is able to cut the reactor core up into small pieces and then place all of those pieces into waste packages to be filled up with a liquid cement so that the boxes can be sent to an intermediate level waste box store.'

JFN is renowned for developing practical solutions for technically challenging projects in hazardous environments, for example the adaptation of mini ROVs to survey and sort the contents of nuclear fuel storage ponds, and has an extensive record for providing bespoke remote handling systems.

The team will work closely with Magnox (the management and operations contractor with responsibility for 12 nuclear sites for the NDA) ensuring its engineers are trained to use the equipment and can safely take the reactor apart, with JFN on standby to provide any required technical advice and support.

Find out about some of JF Nuclear's latest projects;

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