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Aye robot – the Cumbrian machine helping clean-up Sellafield

An operator controls the Avexis robot as it navigates through the Magnox Swarf Storage Silo and (right) the Avexis robot is lowered into a compartment at the Magnox Swarf Storage Silo

[A] robot has been sent into Sellafield’s most hazardous nuclear waste store for the first time.

The ‘Avexis’ will help dislodge and clear waste from the Magnox Swarf Storage Silo.

It has been developed by Cumbrian firm Forth Engineering with support from the University of Manchester.

The Maryport company was launched in 2000 by former Sellafield apprentice Mark Telford.

It is now a global specialist in remote tooling, deployment methods, and sensor systems.

Mr Telford said: “Having Sellafield on our doorstep gives us a huge advantage.

“It’s a testbed where we can develop unique skills and technologies.

“The site needs innovative methods for undertaking engineering tasks in harsh environments underwater.

“Other industries like marine and oil and gas are also looking for similar products.

“Successfully deploying our technology at Sellafield means we can transfer it to these other industries and grow our customer base.

“The Avexis is already generating interest from potential clients overseas.”

The Magnox Swarf Storage Silo was built in the 1960s to store waste from the UK’s earliest nuclear reactors.

It closed in 2000 and has now been prioritised for clean-up by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

This is the first time a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) has been deployed inside the building.

Rebecca Weston, Strategy and Technical Director for Sellafield Ltd, said:

“The Avexis is a great example of the supply chain helping us reduce the UK’s nuclear hazard faster, cheaper and more safely.

“It also shows how companies can use Sellafield as a springboard into international export markets.

The Avexis offers the ability to ‘see’ inside the silo via cameras attached to its body.

It can also clear away small bits of waste clinging to the silo wall.

Its key feature is its size – it is small enough to fit through spaces of just 150mm space.

It is the first robot of its kind to go from concept to market within five years. At just £10,000 it is also the cheapest of its kind.

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