Four Cohort 11 graduates attended a pilot course at the new National College for Nuclear at Lakes College in Lillyhall in June. In this three-day decommissioning exercise, the graduates were tasked with coming up with a decommissioning plan for a nuclear processing rig and to report their findings to a panel from Energus and Sellafield Ltd.
The first day saw the graduates split into teams, presented with some documentation about the rig (though deliberately incomplete), and taken to the rig in the next building. The “BIG RIG” is a three-level rig complete with vessels, pumps and pipework, simulating a nuclear processing facility. The teams were kitted out in Tyvek suits and respirators and were sent onto the rig to examine the facility, taking photos and notes to gather the information needed. The rig contained simulated radioactive sources, and the dose received by the graduates was calculated.
The graduates had to formally request additional information through technical query forms, and could call upon experts to advice on planning, nuclear chemistry, or design. On the second day, the teams were assigned an apprentice from the college to work with and had to brief them and send them onto the rig, communicating only by walkie-talkie from another room.
Other sessions on VR techniques for decommissioning and a session on CAD were run, and the teams produced and presented their decommissioning plans and project budgets.
Chris Anwyl stated “I found this to be an interesting exercise and a good opportunity to experience the sort of “on-site” environment that would be found in decommissioning projects like at Sellafield. The open-ended nature of the project meant that we could all be pushed beyond our current capabilities and learned new things.
I feel I have gained more of an appreciation of the complexities of decommissioning work, especially in how the timescale and cost of even a simple task in an active area can quickly rack up. The team-working element, and particularly the people management element after the apprentices joined us was really good, and will help support my future CEng application in the area of leadership and management”.