How innovation is helping to drive Britain’s nuclear clean up
Sellafield Ltd's Chief Technology Officer, Robin Ibbotson, speaks to PoliticsHome about the role of innovation as part of Britain's nuclear clean up mission.
Innovation and technology development is Robin’s passion.
As the Chief Technology Officer for Sellafield Ltd, his goal every day is to work with colleagues and partners to devise new methods that will assist in the safer, cheaper, faster and more sustainable decommissioning and clean up of the country’s largest nuclear site – Sellafield.
Robin joined the company in 2022 from BAE systems, and great strides have been made since, especially in the field of robotics and AI.
He said: “Our site in West Cumbria has 200 nuclear facilities and 1,300 buildings, some dating back many decades, and our task is focused on cleaning up this nuclear legacy to create a clean and safe environment for future generations.
“Because of the nature and sometimes first of a kind work that we carry out, we have to be inventive about the work we do, through our own people and our partners. These include academics, supply chain partners, other nuclear organisations and colleagues across the wider NDA group.
“We have a huge challenge but also huge scope for innovation and advances in technology.”
“Working at Sellafield requires scientific innovators who have the opportunity to thrive working a in a wide range of areas across the business. This could dramatically increase the efficiency of the work we carry out while reducing costs.
“Highly skilled individuals are motivated by being at the cutting edge of challenges and solutions, so we are thinking about the future. We also need to promote our successes more because this really is an exciting sector with over 100 years of work still ahead of us.
“We have many examples of recent innovation successes at site. For example, inside nuclear facilities, we are developing fixed and ground based robots to undertake tasks such as radioactivity scanning and using remotely operated lasers to cut up materials; drones to undertake inspections of external facilities; underwater remote operated vehicles to help accelerate the clean up of various materials.
“This work provides the opportunity to move people away from risk by creating a distance between our staff and the materials we are dealing with.
“Going back to my earlier point regarding collaboration, we have developed a joint initiative, RAICo, that includes Sellafield Ltd and the NDA in collaboration with the UKAEA and Manchester University that will drive a whole range of initiatives across the nuclear sector.
“This collaboration brings together the owners of the challenges with the people who have the ideas and technology that can solve them.
“These are really exciting times, and I can’t wait to drive forward our many initiatives working alongside our nuclear and non nuclear colleagues to benefit the UK.”
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.