10 February 2012

James Fisher Nuclear is proud to support Sellafield in its Magnox storage pond operations, taking on the impossible challenge and developing a practical solution. We look forward to the next stage.

Sellafield Ltd has successfully used a mini submarine or more correctly a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to survey the contents of one of the historic fuel storage ponds. The First Generation Magnox Storage Pond (FGMSP) has been surveyed thanks to the development and operation of two underwater ROVs. The ‘Seaker’ ROV and the mini ROV have enabled the team to access, video and map the contents of the 1,200 plus storage skips in the pond. This has provided valuable data about not only the skips contents, but their position and condition.

Two of the biggest challenges for the team were the lack of detailed knowledge of the inventory in the aging facility and the difficulty in cross referencing inventory to the existing databases.

The ‘Seaker’ ROV successfully mapped large areas of the pond, however its size restricted it from accessing many of the lower stacked skips. To overcome this obstacle, the team did further research and development work, resulting in the introduction of a Mini ROV. As well as retaining many of the key features of the original ‘Seaker’ such as off - board controls and a docking station to enable different tools to be attached, the smaller ROV included a boom camera, fail safe manipulator, adjustable lighting and both horizontal and vertical cameras.

“The ROV project has been incredibly successful.” said Phil Toomey, technical manager. “When we started, we were told by contacts in the oil industry that it wasn’t possible to make a ROV so adaptable – that it couldn’t be done! We’ve proven them wrong and working closely with our contractor partners James Fisher Nuclear, we’ve been using ROVs in the pond for over 10 years with out any failures.”

Congratulating the team, NMP Executive Director for Sellafield Ltd, Decommissioning Jim French said: “One of the greatest challenges for decommissioning at Sellafield has always been the unknown. This project has made a significant step towards removing that unknown from the FGMSP and to have this level of detail about the contents of the pond and their condition means we are now in a strong position to start and attack the retrievals programme with vigour.”

Following on from the survey s the ROVs will now move on to the next phase of retrievals, picking up items from the pond floor and placing them into skips.