Winter 2018

Extending nuclear clean-up expertise across the USA

James Fisher Technologies (JFT) is currently completing a series of projects at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington state (USA) as part of one of the largest nuclear clean-up efforts in the world.

The team has been tasked with the final design and adaptation of the specialised equipment necessary to ensure safe and environmentally sound removal of highly radioactive soil beneath one specific building (the 324 Building).

View the cleaning up at Hanford graphic.

As the US arm of James Fisher Nuclear (JFN) which is based in Colorado, JFT has been offering similar decommissioning services at the major nuclear sites in the North American region for the last three years. However, this multi-layered Hanford Site contract with a US Department of Energy contractor represents the team’s biggest win, and one that marks its strong position in this growing field.

The 586-square-mile Hanford Site sits on the banks of the Columbia River in the state of Washington and is home to a number of nuclear reactors, waste storage tanks and the processing facilities involved with the testing and production of radioactive materials from the 1940s until the 1980s. Plutonium manufactured there was used in the first nuclear bomb, and during the Cold War reactors there produced plutonium for most of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

In 2010 during preparations for demolition, highly radioactive contamination was discovered in the soil beneath the 324 Building. The discovery of the contamination and its proximity to the Columbia River and nearby city of Richland makes the project a clean-up priority.

Although much of the equipment needed for the job had been detailed in a previous design cycle, JFT was called in earlier this year after suggesting a solution based on the use of existing remote-control demolition equipment to provide power to the excavators. The JFT team was able to help simplify the design and improve the controls of the remote excavator arms by adapting readily available demolition robots – thereby saving the cost and time which might be incurred in manufacturing one-off specialised machinery.

JFT’s chief executive officer, Scott Adams, explains that the same principles were also applied to the request for radiation-tolerant lighting and cameras to help the remote operators guide the excavators, and subsequently to the most recent contract to supply specialised ventilation ducts to allow the encapsulation of reclaimed soil.

‘The success of this series of design projects is a great testament to the skills and expertise of the JFT team,’ says Scott.

His team has designed and delivered four robotic excavators, which will be used to remove and contain the contaminated ground material from under the building for safe removal and storage. The first version has been onsite since June, and is used for testing and to train personnel. A second version was delivered in August.

‘The team’s pragmatic approach to solving the challenges (often finding ways to adapt existing off-the-shelf solutions rather than trying to design new equipment from scratch) and our results-oriented method of project management puts us on the map as a major supplier of remotely operated equipment for use in similar, future applications,’ Scott adds.

Cleaning up at Hanford:

hanford graphic_new_06_Dec.jpg

 

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