OC Robotics leads team in world first laser-cutting project

A team led by OC Robotics has achieved a world first by using remote laser-cutting technology to dismantle redundant equipment inside a nuclear facility.

The project’s success has been acknowledged with a Nuclear Decommissioning Agency Estate Supply Chain Award for Technology/Innovation implementation.

In August 2016 the project successfully cut up a large steel dissolver vessel at the Sellafield site using a laser integrated with a highly flexible remotely-controlled robot arm.

The operation proved the value of laser-cutting technology, combined with robotics, for handling decommissioning tasks in hazardous, confined spaces more quickly and effectively than previously possible.

After a feasibility study in 2011, the technology has been developed over the past four years through a collaborative research project co-funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK. With OC Robotics as lead, the other partners in the project were TWI, the National Nuclear Laboratory, ULO Optics and Laser Optical Engineering.

Chris Hope, Future Decommissioning Team Manager at Sellafield, said: “The LaserSnake demonstration at Sellafield has been highly rewarding and very successful. Not only has it enabled a potentially game-changing technology to be tried, tested and proven on a real nuclear decommissioning scenario, but it has also shown the benefit of a collaborative approach between the supply chain and a site operator. This enabled the research and development funding to achieve a highly successful outcome which may otherwise not have been achieved.”