Jacobs to manage acquisition of manipulator robots for Windscale lab

Jacobs has been selected by the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) to manage the procurement of over 100 new remotely operated manipulator robots for its Windscale Laboratory in West Cumbria.

Active handling facility at the Windscale Laboratory
Active handling facility at the Windscale Laboratory - NNL

Working with Wälischmiller Engineering, Jacobs’ robotics specialists will be responsible for acquiring replacement machines that handle radioactive material for inspection or processing.

Jacobs will also work with Numech, a Cumbria-based engineering company, on the design and manufacture of dedicated liners to provide each of the manipulators with radiation protection in 12 of the facility’s highly radioactive caves.

“Building on 15 years of supporting the NNL mission, this important project will help us continue pushing the boundaries of robotics in nuclear research,” Jacobs’ energy, security & technology senior vice president Karen Wiemelt said in a statement. “With our successful experience in remote handling projects, we can deliver facilities that improve NNL’s nuclear research capabilities and support the UK’s energy transition and net zero carbon objectives.”

Remote handling specialists from Wälischmiller and Jacobs will train NNL staff to operate and maintain the new equipment at a purpose-built mock-up in Jacobs’ Engineering and Technology Centre close to the Sellafield site.

“Our Windscale Laboratory is unique in the UK, and vital to the nuclear industry, supporting our customers to ensure continued safe running of our nation’s nuclear reactors,” said NNL’s Chief Customer Officer Nick Hanigan. “This investment in our facilities will enable us to continue to meet the needs of our stakeholders as well as the wider ambitions of the sector in our role as the national laboratory for nuclear fission.”

Jacobs has made robotics a target for research and development investment, such as with the 2022 acquisition of Cumbria-based Resolve Robotics, which develops and manufactures micro and nanorobotic systems for hazardous and challenging environments.

Jacobs is also investing $4.6m to open the Centre for Robotic Autonomy in Demanding and Long-lasting Environments, a new centre for PhD research at Manchester University. Jacobs is also carrying out major refurbishments of NNL’s four main research laboratories in the North West of England.