Jacobs to manage robots for UK Nuclear Research

  • July 26, 2023
  • William Payne

Texas engineering firm Jacobs has been selected by the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) to manage the acquisition of more than 100 new remotely operated manipulator robots for its Windscale Laboratory in West Cumbria, England.

Working with Wälischmiller Engineering, Jacobs’ robotics specialists will be responsible for procuring replacement machines which will handle radioactive material for inspection or processing.

Jacobs will also work with Cumbria-based engineering company Numech on the design and manufacture of dedicated liners to provide each of the manipulators with radiation protection in 12 of the facility’s highly radioactive caves.

Remote handling specialists from Wälischmiller and Jacobs will train NNL staff to operate and maintain the new equipment at a purpose-built mock-up in Jacobs’ Engineering and Technology Centre close to the Sellafield site in North West England. As a local small medium enterprise, Numech’s involvement in the project is an opportunity to bring additional, important economic benefits to Cumbria.

“Building on 15 years of supporting the NNL mission, this important project will help us continue pushing the boundaries of robotics in nuclear research,” said Jacobs Energy, Security & Technology Senior Vice President Karen Wiemelt. “With our successful experience in remote handling projects, we can deliver facilities that improve NNL’s nuclear research capabilities and support the U.K.’s energy transition and net zero carbon objectives.”

Robotics is a major focus of Jacobs’ investment in research and development. Last year it brought on board the staff and assets of Resolve Robotics, a British company which developed innovative autonomous systems for hazardous environments. Jacobs is investing $4.6 million to open the Centre for Robotic Autonomy in Demanding and Long-lasting Environments, a new centre for PhD research at the University of Manchester. Jacobs is also carrying out major refurbishments of NNL’s four main research laboratories in the North West of England.

“Our Windscale Laboratory is unique in the UK, and vital to the nuclear industry, supporting our customers to ensure continued safe running of our nation’s nuclear reactors,” said NNL’s Chief Customer Officer Nick Hanigan. “This investment in our facilities will enable us to continue to meet the needs of our stakeholders as well as the wider ambitions of the sector in our role as the national laboratory for nuclear fission.”