Cavendish Nuclear to lead OptiSORT radioactive waste project

1 min read

Cavendish Nuclear is leading a project to employ advanced robotic technology for safer, quicker and more economical sorting of nuclear waste material.

OptiSORT aims to improve productivity by introducing autonomous operation in remote sorting and segregation projects like the Berkeley Active Waste Vaults Retrieval Programme (Image: Cavendish Nuclear)

Babcock subsidiary Cavendish Nuclear has won funding for its new OptiSORT system, which will be carried as part of an industry-wide partnership that includes Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

UK to tackle nuclear waste with robots and AI

The funding forms Phase 1 of a 2-part competition awarded by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), in partnership with Innovate UK, to fund innovative ideas that will lead to better ways of sorting and segregating radioactive waste.

In a statement, Tony Burnett, head of Innovation and Technology for Cavendish Nuclear said, “The use of this technology will be brand new and is not something currently carried out on nuclear sites.”

Along with Bristol Robotics, the OptiSORT partnership includes Clifton Photonics Ltd, Imitec Ltd, Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics, Structure Vision Ltd and Acrovision Ltd.

According to Cavendish Nuclear, the collaboration brings together experience and capabilities in the selection and use of instrumentation for radiometric and chemical characterisation, spatial and visual identification and software tools for packaging, plus robotic/autonomous systems.

Burnett added: “It’s the strength of this partnership along with the technology that is really bringing the innovation to life. Our goal is to develop something that will save time, reduce risks and costs to make a significant contribution to achieving Nuclear Sector Deal2 objectives. OptiSORT is a significant technological leap forward and has the potential to transform the speed and efficiency at which we can decommission complex redundant nuclear facilities.”

An initial £60,000 of funding has been provided to Cavendish Nuclear and 13 thirteen other consortia to undertake the three month technical research and development feasibility study. Following conclusion of Phase 1 in late May, the consortia will compete for contracts to demonstrate the system’s operation. This will involve developing and demonstrating a full-scale prototype in a non-radioactive environment.