K-TIG to partner with UK research centre on robotic welding technology for nuclear decommissioning market

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By Imelda Cotton - 
KTIG AMRC Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre ASX KTG

K-TIG will own all intellectual property developed by the project with Nuclear AMRC.


Welding technology specialist K-TIG (ASX: KTG) will work with UK-based Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre to develop a turnkey robotic welding cell for use in the production of stainless steel nuclear storage containers.

Up to 17,000 containers will be needed to hold intermediate level waste during decommissioning of the Sellafield nuclear site near Cumbria as part of Britain’s $2.84 billion procurement plan scheduled to commence next year.

K-TIG’s welding cell is expected to position the company as a Sellafield supplier, and create a competitive advantage for its Evolve 3 controller which monitors, automates and reports on all aspects of welding operations.

The cell will be developed within a nuclear industry technology demonstration facility at the University of Sheffield, harnessing the latest in robotic technology, sensor integration, statistical process control, quality assurance and welding procedure automation to develop a superior product.

The end product will have a 150-year integrity (which is the minimum industry requirement) and will have the capacity to adapt to nuclear decommissioning projects worldwide.

Significant milestone

K-TIG general manager (UK and European Union) Ben Hall said the project was considered a significant milestone in the company’s nuclear strategy and implementation of the Industry 4.0 approach within the UK.

“We are giving those facing complex nuclear waste storage issues the ability to source the highest quality, repeatable and competitively-priced storage capabilities,” he said.

“This project will provide UK manufacturers with a turnkey robotic welding cell solution for waste container production, enabling them to compete on the global stage.”

K-TIG will maintain all intellectual property and commercialisation rights to the robotic welding cell and will adapt the technology to other projects as required.

Worldwide reactors

Of the 447 reactors still in operation worldwide at January 2020, 306 of them (or nearly 70%) are at least 30 years old and 25% are older than 40 years.

On average, a reactor can be kept in operation for up to 80 years but once it reaches that point, it has to be decommissioned.

According to the International Energy Agency, between 200 and 400 commercial and research reactors are scheduled to be shut down by 2040.

It says global demand for decommissioning services will be shaped by Europe, North America and North East Asia (namely Japan and South Korea).

The World Nuclear Association reports that by 2035, the volume of the nuclear decommissioning market worldwide will reach $177 billion.