Off-the-shelf gaming technology is being used to help decommission redundant facilities at Sellafield. Virtual environments that replicate a number of Sellafield plants have already been constructed. These enable a user to simulate plant walkthroughs from their own PC, similar to a conventional computer game – but without the monsters!
Steve Hepworth, a decommissioning technical manager, Sellafield Ltd, said: “We’ve built virtual environments using gaming software to which we’ve attached plant data, photographs and plant items. This offers Sellafield the ability to build a walkthrough of any plant.
“The potential applications are huge; in particular it’s an effective means of providing plant familiarisation, operator training and job planning. All of this can be done safely in front of a computer screen, which is particularly valuable where the reality would be to visit a high radiation area.”
The cost of developing the models has been relatively minor, because there’s no expensive software development with only a license fee to cover the use.
Radiation hot-spots and other hazards can also be included which provides an effective means of planning potentially dangerous operations.
A number of virtual environments have been built that include: redundant research laboratories, a plutonium finishing line and a legacy fuel pond – all of which are undergoing decommissioning.
Phil Reeve, Head of Strategy and Technical for Decommissioning, Sellafield Ltd, added: “Decommissioning redundant nuclear plants can be a dangerous and expensive business and the use of this new technology could provide a cost effective and safe virtual environment to plan and practice jobs.
“We’re keen to buy in proven technology from other industries and apply it to the technical challenges posed by decommissioning what are some of the most hazardous plants in the NDA’s portfolio, whilst providing value for money for the UK taxpayers.”