Nuclear Decommissioning Authority
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Warm welcome to robots taking the heat out of world’s decommissioning challenges

Blog posted by: , 19 April 2018 – Categories:Innovation/savingsInternational activitiesResearch and development.

Different but similar

This was my first time at the Waste Management Symposia and my first visit to Phoenix. For me, the conference was an opportunity to share the innovative technologies that NDA and Innovate UK have helped to financially support over the last few years and, as the theme of the conference was robotics, find out more about the robotic technologies being developed across the world. This was  particularly timely and relevant as I’ve been working on developing our strategy for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (RAI) R&D.

Bringing innovation to the NDA mission is a key part of NDA’s R&D portfolio and it’s vital if we are to deal with our nuclear legacy safely, securely and cost-effectively. Whilst the UK is working on many ‘never-done-before’ projects, there are also parallels with the challenges facing France, US and Japan, so it was extremely valuable to have technical discussions with the other attendees.

The conference opened on the Sunday afternoon in the Exhibition Hall and Robotics Pavilion, with a range of new technologies being demonstrated. In many ways, the Exhibition Hall is similar to the NDA’s Supply Chain Event but with a greater focus on large corporates rather than Small-and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).

The interactive exhibits stimulated lively discussions around the stands and constructive exchanges of innovative ideas, particularly from some of the smaller businesses.

Challenges for breakfast

Monday started at 7am with a Presenter’s Breakfast and an opportunity to meet my co-chairs and co-presenters. One co-chair was the impressive Kim Auclair , who has over 40 years’ experience on high-hazard projects including Three-Mile Island, Chernobyl and the Exxon Valdez recovery. Breakfast was therefore spent discussing UK decommissioning challenges and similarities with the US. Introducing insight from other countries and sectors is a key role for NDA’s Technology Team and my breakfast discussions certainly provided lots of ideas to take back to the UK.

Presentations started after breakfast, with as many as 11 concurrent sessions indicating the scale of the conference  - more than 2,300 visitors. Fortunately, I’d reviewed the programme beforehand and had already marked out the robotics sessions that interested me most. After  hearing about NASA’s robotics programme and the similarities with nuclear, it was time for my presentation.

My theme, Delivering Business Benefit to UK Decommissioning Through Collaborative Innovation – Approach and Technologies, covered our collaborative approach to encouraging innovation and the benefits we have seen from working together with Innovate UK as well, as examples of the innovative technologies funded by NDA and Innovate UK over the last few years. The presentation was well attended and went smoothly and I answered a number of questions about specific technologies we’d supported and their subsequent development and deployment, as well as about how attendees could find out more about the UK companies involved.

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