On 28th June, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and The University of Strathclyde, welcomed over 100 stakeholders to their second Innovation and Technology Roadshow at the university’s Innovations and Technology Centre in Glasgow.
The roadshow is the second of four events the NDA is hosting across the UK in 2023/24. It celebrated the wealth of nuclear decommissioning expertise in Scotland, the strong relationships held with academia and industry, and demonstrated how new technology, such as robotics, is transforming how the UK’s earliest nuclear sites are decommissioned safely and securely.
The NDA is currently decommissioning 17 sites across the UK, 3 of which are in Scotland: Dounreay in Caithness, Chapelcross in Dumfries and Galloway and Hunterston A in Ayrshire. The sites collectively employ around 2,500 people as well as benefitting more than 460 people in the Scottish supply chain.
Across these sites, a wealth of knowledge and innovation is applied to advance the NDA’s mission. Recently Lyra, a robot developed by Dounreay in collaboration with the University of Manchester to inspect areas of the site too hazardous to be accessed by humans, was commended in the TIME magazine’s ‘200 Best Inventions of 2022’.
Francis Livens, NDA Non-Executive Director and Director of the Dalton Institute at the University of Manchester, said: “Partnership working and engagement are critical to the successful management of Scotland’s nuclear legacy and the NDA is grateful for the close working relationship we have with the Scottish Government as well as the range of other organisations and communities associated with nuclear sites in our region.
“By working with a range of academia, including the University of Strathclyde, we can foster innovative solutions to support our mission, whilst unlocking the future talent required that helps us to develop the next generation of the nuclear decommissioning workforce.”
Professor Mike Ward, Professor of Practice for the Advanced Nuclear Research Centre (ANRC) at the University of Strathclyde spoke at the event, giving an introduction to the ANRC, a research partnership established to support the nuclear sector, including supporting safe decommissioning and ensuring it leaves a lasting socio-economic benefit.
Professor Ward, said: “Irrespective of policy on nuclear new build, Scotland has a number of legacy nuclear sites that need to be dealt with responsibly.
“Looking into ways of leveraging the investment needed to address this challenge through innovation seems like a significant opportunity, with the potential to enable a growth in new, high-value, sustainable industries.
“By being part of today’s event the Advanced Nuclear Research Centre can be part of this opportunity and collaborate with industry and other academic partners to meet these challenges.”
The NDA is funding PhD and Post-Doctoral Research Bursaries at Strathclyde, which offer academic researchers the opportunity to develop their research career in some of the NDA’s key focus areas of STEM, Sustainability, the Environment, Stakeholder Engagement, and the Management of Risk. The bursaries equally allow the NDA to work with new academic talent and fresh thinking regarding the approach to its mission delivery.
The event allowed those in attendance to hear about why technology and innovation are so important to nuclear decommissioning, as well as witnessing the range of collaborations that help the NDA develop the subject matter experts and solutions for the future. It also provided an opportunity to engage with local students on their PhD projects enabling more connections and collaborations to be made.
Oliver Mundell, MSP for Dumfriesshire, said: “As an MSP with a decommissioning site in my constituency, it was welcoming to see the NDA bringing key stakeholders, regulators, and experts together from across the country to showcase the many innovative initiatives and the exciting opportunities that exist for the current and future workforce.
“By creating these links and involving the wider community in the conversation hopefully we will see even greater future collaboration.”
Attendance comprised of representatives from local authorities, Scottish Government, and other national organisations such as Decomm North Sea, Zero Waste Scotland, and Scottish Enterprise. There was also representation from a number of academic institutions including Ayrshire College and the universities of Strathclyde, Aberdeen, Lancaster, Glasgow, and Central Lancashire.
Melanie Brownridge, NDA’s Director for Technology and Innovation, closed the event by saying: “Innovation is a team sport so collaboration is key if we are to accelerate and realise the benefits that technology and innovation can bring to all parts of our decommissioning mission.
“We’ve heard and seen some of the impactful work being carried across the group and with our academic partners and how this work is helping us develop and engage with the experts and leaders of the future.
“We’re excited about the next steps in our journey together to help us transform how we deliver our mission.”