Güdel technology helps keep nuclear decommissioning on track

Winfrith is located on a 129-hectare site of special scientific interest in the heart of the Dorset countryside. Constructed in the 1950’s, Winfrith provided vital research into reactor design. Of the original nine unique and experimental reactors only two remain: Dragon, a helium cooled reactor and the Steam Generating Heavy Water Reactor, the only one of Winfrith’s reactors to supply power to the national grid.

In the summer of 2016, James Fisher Nuclear (JFN) tendered for and secured a prestigious £ Multi-Million contract with Magnox, working on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, to remotely segment the SGHWR reactor and handle the resultant waste packages. In the interim period, JFN has been engaging closely with its supply chain to identify a mixture of commercial off the shelf (COTS) and bespoke equipment to determine the optimum solution for this project.

The architect or builder produces the design, the connection points and the apertures for windows, doors and electrical equipment in the CAD system.

This then sends the production data directly to the Güdel 6-axis robot. In this way the system can either produce high volume quantities of a particular set of components, as might be the case for smaller affordable housing units, or one-off components for a bespoke design.

Güdel’s part in the project is based upon the company’s TrackMotion Floor (TMF) linear track which can move industrial robots weighing up to six tons. This field proven system is distinguished by its excellent reliability and durability, essential attributes in a project of this nature. Güdel TrackMotion robot slides use cam-rollers on flat guide rails to give an accurate, repeatable slide, which is highly resistant to ingress from environmental contaminants such as concrete dust and swarf.

The track supplied by Güdel for the Winfrith decommissioning project is a TMF4 unit, with 2 independently driven carriages, which spans a distance of 24 metres. A KUKA Titan 6-axis robot will traverse the track visiting 3 distinct areas: the reactor chamber, a cleaning area and an area where operators can interact with the robot.

The second carriage carries robot tooling to allow the robot to change tooling remotely without leaving the reactor chamber. The robot will use a variety of different tools including a diamond impregnated saw, chippers and grippers to undertake the various disassembly tasks required. Unusually, in this application, the robot will be driven manually under remote control.

JFN engineers will be manufacturing the specialist tooling required for this project and integrating it with the robot and the Gudel TrackMotion to allow development trials to take place in the coming months.


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