UK consortium developing nuclear waste sortation solution

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A consortium of technology companies is developing a robotic solution designed to make nuclear waste sortation safer, quicker and cheaper.

The OptiSORT project includes Bristol Robotics Laboratory, Cavendish Nuclear, Clifton Photonics, Imitec, Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics, Structure Vision and Acrovision.

Together, they will develop a technology package that integrates multiple sensors, machine learning and AI algorithms for real-time decision making.

The project brings together experience and capabilities in the selection and use of instrumentation for radiometric and chemical characterisation, spatial and visual identification, software tools for efficient packaging as well as robotic autonomous systems to deliver a holistic and integrated solution to the challenge.

Tony Burnett, head of innovation and technology for Cavendish Nuclear, said: “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 deal 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 in funding has been provided to the consortium to undertake a three-month technical research and development feasibility study.

The funding forms phase one of a two-part competition awarded by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, in partnership with Innovate UK.

The competition aims to fund innovative ideas that will lead to cheaper, safer and faster ways of sorting and segregating radioactive waste.

Following conclusion of phase one in late May, the consortium will then compete for a number of contracts to take the concept to the next stage, which is to demonstrate system operation.

This will involve developing and demonstrating a full-scale prototype in a non-radioactive environment.

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