Australian welding specialist K-TIG (ASX: KTG) has secured a deal with a UK-based nuclear body to advance a technology designed to streamline nuclear power plant decommissioning.
A memorandum of understanding with Sheffield University’s Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC) will see K-TIG develop a robotic welding cell which will be used to fabricate nuclear waste containers for the future decommissioning of 17 nuclear sites throughout the UK.
Under the terms of the agreement, K-TIG will provide integrated welding automation for the cell, as well as container manipulators, robotic welding arms and welding systems, and automated pre and post-weld inspection systems for real-time quality checking.
The company will work with industry partners to integrate commercially-available ultrasonic, visual and acoustic sensor systems into the welding cell controller to provide a turnkey solution for the fabrication of the stainless steel containers.
Around 15,000 containers measuring 3 cubic metres each are expected to be produced under the agreement before being procured by licenced decommissioning company Sellafield as part of its $2.82 billion procurement plan scheduled to commence in late 2023.
Sellafield is controlled by the UK government’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which was set up specifically to deal with the nuclear legacy under the nation’s Energy Act 2004.
NAMRC is developing a facility to prove and demonstrate technologies which will be instrumental in the UK’s decommissioning activities.
It is expected to de-risk the fabrication process and provide resources to allow for the modernisation of fabrication capabilities to industry-best standards.
It will also participate in ongoing decommissioning activities across the 17 future sites.
NAMRC will fabricate the containers for nuclear waste primarily generated from legacy storage facilities being decommissioned as part of the “retrievals” stream at the Sellafield nuclear site.
The containers are considered critical to the achievement of safe decommissioning activities and automated robotic fabrication.
K-TIG will fund the development of the welding cell and make it available to NAMRC for the demonstration facility.
K-TIG general manager (UK & Europe) Ben Hall said the company’s welding technology has been seen as key to meeting the exacting quality standards required.
“Our robotic welding cell will showcase the precision, quality and efficiency of advanced K-TIG solutions which incorporate cutting-edge keyhole technology and real-time quality assessment,” he said.
“[We expect] it will fast become the standard for nuclear waste storage container welding.”
He said the agreement was an “important milestone” in K-TIG’s strategy to expand its involvement in the decommissioning of nuclear facilities worldwide.