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Innovate UK Funding For Costain

15 January 2015


Costain has gained £180,000 of funding for a project that aims to make the disposal of radioactive waste safer, quicker and more cost-effective.

Innovate UK (formerly known as the Technology Strategy Board) has granted a total of £350,000 to D:EEP a collaborative project between Costain and imaging technology specialist Createc. The funding is part of a joint £13 million initiative between Innovate UK, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to stimulate the UK’s civil nuclear power sector.

The money awarded to the collaboration will be used to carry out further development work on an innovative system that provides a detailed, real-time survey of levels of radioactive contamination in concrete waste.

Current methods for determining depth of contamination involve taking random core samples from the contaminated material and then sending these to a lab for analysis, which normally takes between six and eight weeks.

In contrast, the D:EEP system looks at the depth of contamination across the entire surface and can pinpoint in real-time the depth at which the more-contaminated Intermediate Level Waste (ILW) becomes the less-contaminated Low Level Waste (LLW).

Said Matt Butler, Costain Project Manager: “Our system provides the whole picture not just an interpolation. This means we can accurately measure the depth of contamination and classify the waste as ILW or LLW. This is vital: having a good understanding of what is ILW and what is LLW can mean less waste and fewer storage facilities. This can result in major, long-term savings. We estimate the NDA (Nuclear Decommissioning Authority) could potentially save just under £1.5 billion.

“The D:EEP system also brings significant health and safety benefits. Fewer visits to waste are needed so there is less dose exposure, and there is also less incorrectly classified waste.”

Work on the five-year project begin in February 2013. Feasibility studies at the Chapelcross nuclear power station in April 2013 and at the Sellafield nuclear site in March 2014 proved the system worked. Now the new funding will help the team carry out further case studies and bring the system to market. Its potential could be huge, said Matt.

“We see it being used not just in the nuclear power industry but also at defence and healthcare sites – in fact wherever in the world there is radioactive waste.”

Commented Alex Vaughan, Managing Director, Natural Resources: “Costain continues to target and invest in research and development projects to reduce the cost of treating the UK’s legacy nuclear waste. The innovative solutions developed by our teams, working together with our customers, key partners and Innovate UK, will allow us to deliver significant efficiencies as we work to meet this key national need.”

 

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