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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/T011491/1
Title: NNUF-HR: National Nuclear User Facility for Hot Robotics
Principal Investigator: Scott, Professor TB
Other Investigators:
Richards, Professor A Lennox, Professor B Marjanovic, Dr O
Richardson, Professor TS
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
AWE Babcock International Group Plc (UK) EDF
Nuclear Decomissioning Authority
Department: Interface Analysis Centre
Organisation: University of Bristol
Scheme: Standard Research - NR1
Starts: 01 November 2019 Ends: 31 May 2023 Value (£): 3,592,635
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Energy - Nuclear
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
12 Aug 2019 National Nuclear User Facility Phase 2 2019 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Scope and Operating Vision

We propose a facility that will become an internationally-recognised hive for collaborative research in nuclear robotics and sensors. The facility will provide necessary infrastructure and equipment to support significant sector change, both in terms of technology-innovation and culture. Complementary nuclear robotics-related equipment and mock-ups will be based at four strategic UK locations: Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE) at UKAEA, Culham; the University of Bristol's Fenswood Facility on the outskirts of Bristol; the Workington Laboratory of National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL); and the University of Manchester's Dalton Cumbria Facility (DCF). The Hot Robotics facility will run via a coordinated "Hub and Spoke" approach, with RACE being the primary site. Together, these facilities will form a coordinated National Nuclear User Facility for hot nuclear robotics. Our aim is for NNUF-HR to be a national facility for the next 25 years, supporting UK ambitions for cheaper, faster decommissioning, nuclear new-build, advanced modular fission reactors and future fusion powerplants.

Summary of Equipment

Our proposal is for a combination of robotic manipulators, ground vehicles, aerial vehicles, underwater vehicles, deployment robots, various sensors and cameras, plant mock-ups, and supporting infrastructure. By proposing such a breadth of equipment, across multiple sites, we are confident of having the widest possible reach and impact in terms of scientific output and user base.

Why These Four Locations?

We have specifically chosen four sites to build on existing infrastructure and relationships. It is essential, in terms of both geography and distribution of existing capabilities, that there are four sites in this proposal. Truly UK-wide benefits would not be able to be achieved by limiting this proposal to a single site. The Bristol site is ideally placed in respect of major nuclear sector activities in the South West, such as new-build at Hinkley Point C, Magnox site decommissioning (Berkeley, Winfrith and Oldbury) and substantial training/skills undertakings associated with the National College for Nuclear (NCfN) southern site at Bridgwater & Taunton College. At Culham, as well as UKAEA, there is close proximity to both Harwell (Magnox and other nuclear companies), AWE and support of the Oxfordshire LEP in terms of innovation and skills. In Cumbria, DCF and NNL Workington are ideally placed for Sellafield and also the NCfN northern training site at Lakes College, Workington.

How Will Users Access the Facility and its Equipment?

The facility will provide access to cutting-edge robotics equipment and experts, supporting research, innovation, commercialisation and training. There will be two modes of access:

(1) Universities and their industrial partners will be able to book both space and equipment inside the facility for supported experiments, demonstrations and technology certification.

(2) Users will also be able to hire-out, to their own laboratories or to nuclear sites, turn-key 'containerised' robotics solutions to facilitate development, integration and testing of new capabilities, control algorithms and sensory add-ons. This latter mode of access will enable a widening of academic and industrial participation to fully utilise the facility's resources.

NNUF-HR funding is not expected to create a full decommissioning toolkit to decommission Sellafield - such a toolkit will cost £Bs over decades. NNUF-HR's ambition is to show what is possible and, hence, influence decision-makers and enable the routine use of robotics for high-hazard working. However, we envisage that the containerised decommissioning toolkit will be the proof-of-concept enabling rapid expansion with industry investment. Hence, NNUF-HR will create the prototype facilities for much wider use.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
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Organisation Website: http://www.bris.ac.uk