Bluetooth joins sub for decommissioning
A mini-submarine with wireless connectivity is being used to transmit live data on conditions in a legacy fuel storage pond at the UK’s Sellafield site. The company says this is a first for its decommissioning program.
The mini-sub is one of the first of a fleet of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) supporting decommissioning at the site, where it is being used to retrieve data on liquor conditions and to monitor visibility in the First Generation Magnox Storage Pond. The pond, which dates back to the 1950s, contains used nuclear fuel, radioactive sludges, miscellaneous nuclear wastes and fuel containers and presents complex decommissioning challenges.
The mini-sub deploys a probe which can sample up to seven different variables at any one time. Deploying the probe with a ROV helps to provide a “more 3D-like data stream” to the decommissioning team, Sellafield Ltd technical specialist Marcus Coupe said. It is providing invaluable insights into the challenge of the legacy ponds where any loss of visibility can potentially cause a significant risk to operations as well as potentially slowing down future retrievals, he noted.
Marrying the submarine ROV with Bluetooth wireless communication technology is a first for nuclear decommissioning at Sellafield. Project leader Xavier Poteau said that the work could potentially pave the way forward for the use of other in-situ techniques as well as wireless monitoring of effluents. “A lot more can be done combining commercially available equipment that are not usually tagged as nuclear-ready,” he said.
Robots are proving increasingly useful for nuclear decommissioning work in areas that are hard to access conventionally, both underwater and in dry conditions. They range in size and function from the Charli ROV deployed inside the reactor vessel of France’s Superphénix fast neutron reactor to carry out cutting work to crawler-mounted robots being used to survey inaccessible areas at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan.
Source: World Nuclear News
£79m investment in next generation nuclear submarines
The Defence Secretary has announced £79 million of investment in the next generation of Royal Navy submarines.
The Successor submarines, which will carry the UK’s strategic nuclear deterrent will be the largest and most advanced boats operated by the Navy and their design and construction will be the most technologically complex in the history of the UK.
Two contracts worth £47 million and £32 million have been awarded to BAE Systems Maritime-Submarines, based in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, who are leading on the design of the vessels.
The investment will allow BAES, who currently have more than a thousand people working on the Successor programme, to begin work on some initial items for the submarines that are due to replace the Vanguard Class from 2028. It is essential these items, which include structural fittings, electrical equipment, castings and forgings are ordered now to ensure the submarines are able to meet their in service date.
The Successor design and build programme is amongst the most complex ever undertaken by British industry. The total number of MoD and industrial staff currently working on the Successor programme is around 2,000, with more than half working as engineers and designers. Over 850 potential UK suppliers have so far been identified as benefiting from investment in the programme and as many as 6,000 people will be involved by the time that the construction reaches a peak.
Nuclear subs temporarily banned from two Scottish lochs
Royal Navy nuclear submarines have been temporarily banned from two Scots lochs after failing training assessments.
Problems with safety procedures were identified during simulated submarine accident exercises in March and April.
The Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator has banned submarines from Loch Goil, near Faslane, and Loch Ewe in Wester Ross, while the issues are addressed.
The Ministry of Defence said there was no risk during the recent exercises and the subs continued to operate safely.
An MoD spokesman said: “The MoD takes its nuclear safety responsibilities seriously and conducts regular training to maintain high standards.
“We are taking steps to address the issues raised by regulators following recent exercises but there is no risk of harm to the public or to the environment.
“The Royal Navy continues to operate submarines safely out of Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde.”
Source: BBC News
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Assystem Energy and Nuclear Engineers pay a visit HMS/M Vengeance in Devonport
The 15,000 tonne Scotland based Trident submarine ‘HMS Vengeance’ sailed into Devonport in March this year. As part of a £350m Ministry of Defence contract to refit and refuel, it’s been suggested that the ballistic nuclear submarine has safeguarded upwards of 2,000 UK jobs across the defence industry.
Assystem Energy and Nuclear staff pictured outside the Trident refit complex in Babcock’s Devonport dockyard (left to right, Amy Bowers, Tim Wicksteed, Pete Gillham, Mike Ormston & Jason Lockley)
With work on the Vanguard class vessel securing 1,000 jobs at Babcock in Devonport alone, Assystem Energy and Nuclear is representative of a number of other companies involved in ensuring that this nuclear deterrent will continue to operate safely and effectively for years to come once back at sea and operational.
Sitting out of the water in her specially converted dry dock, Assystem Energy and Nuclear were invited to step aboard the 150m (492ft) long vessel. HMS Vengeance, the last of her class to be refitted in Devonport is undergoing a complete overhaul of equipment, improvements to her missile launch capabilities and upgrades to the onboard computer systems. A new reactor core will also be fitted, a core that has been designed to last the submarine until she is finally decommissioned.
UK Trident Submarine – HMS Vengeance – Photo (RN)
As guests of the HMS Vengeance’s Assistant Marine Engineering Officer – Lieutenant Sam Gill RN, Assystem Energy and Nuclear Bristol based engineers couldn’t help but marvel at the size and complexity of the vessel as they set foot onto the submarine’s casing.
” It was great to be able to link the work I’ve been doing with the people who are operating the submarines on a day-to-day basis. The UK’s fleet of nuclear submarines have an excellent safety record and that has only been possible due to the combined efforts of the engineers who design them and the crews themselves, whose meticulous approach to maintenance ensures any problems are identified and dealt with swiftly.” – Tim Wicksteed (Assystem Energy and Nuclear Stress Engineer)
“It’s proved to be a very successful and rewarding day. Our engineers and designers work hard on lots of submarine projects, but not many of them ever get the opportunity to see where their bits of the puzzle fit into the incredibly large picture. I think it gives our guys a much greater sense of achievement to see their efforts up close” Jason Lockley (Assystem Energy and Nuclear Business Development Manager (ex Submariner))
“You don’t fully appreciate the density or diversity of the systems that are involved until you get to see them installed in an operational environment. It’s absolutely invaluable to talk to the teams that are involved with operating and maintaining the boat and to learn from their experiences”. Mike Ormston (Assystem Energy and Nuclear Principal EC&I Engineer)
Assystem Energy and Nuclear engineering consultancy specialises in mechanical and electrical design, structural integrity work and the generation of safety reports for many primary nuclear components onboard the UK’s existing submarine fleet. Assystem Energy and Nuclear are also involved with future submarine programmes as well as being heavily involved in the civil nuclear sector, supporting new build, maintenance and decommissioning activities.
Rear Admiral Simon Lister was quoted as saying “The highly sophisticated nature of the work involved in the deep maintenance of these magnificent vessels is testament to the experience and skills of the workforce in Devonport and those in the supply chain across the UK.” (BBC News, 26 March 2012)
One of Assystem Energy and Nuclear’s bright young engineering stars, who’s soon to finish her PhD said.
When you see the scale of the submarine and all the components involved it’s very impressive – it’s fantastic to get the opportunity to work on such projects. You only have to take a look at projects like this one and others that companies like ours are involved with to realise that we have great engineering talent in the UK. It’s amazing what we can achieve when we put our minds to it. . Amy Bowers (Assystem Energy and Nuclear Graduate Stress Engineer)
Assystem Energy and Nuclear would like to thank HMS Vengeance ship’s staff, especially MEO – Lt Cdr Shaun Southward RN & AMEO Lt Sam Gill RN for such an enlightening tour, and the interest shown in how the wider MoD Supply chain works to support the submarine programme.
Submarine vets call for USS Scorpion investigation
The Navy has rejected an undersea expedition to site of the 1968 shipwreck.
The saga of the USS Scorpion continues as a submarine veterans group calls for a new investigation of the unexplained accident that sank the U.S. nuclear attack sub more than 40 years ago.
The Scorpion went down May 22, 1968, killing 99 men and foundering 11,220 feet underwater in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The sub carried two nuclear torpedoes and a nuclear reactor.
A Navy Court of Inquiry found that year that “the cause of the loss cannot be definitively ascertained,” leaving the sub’s demise a matter of controversy for decades. Last month, the U.S. Navy denied a proposal by marine disaster experts to investigate the shipwreck, triggering the latest call for finally determining what sank the USS Scorpion.
“One can hope that the Navy will listen to us,” says Thomas Conlon of the U.S. Submarine Veterans, a 13,800-member organization of former submarine servicemembers dedicated to memorializing lost submariners. The organization sent a letter Nov. 5 to the secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, with the “request that the United States Navy officially reopen the investigation of USS Scorpion (SSN 589).”
In May, an expedition team led by former U.S. naval officer Paul Boyne proposed to the U.S. Navy Heritage and History Command in Washington that it would send an undersea robot to resolve unanswered questions about the tragedy. After a summer of contentious correspondence, the Navy office denied the permit citing the lack of an archaeological plan for the investigation.
In a follow-up letter sent last week, U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Barry Bruner warned Boyne against undertaking any unauthorized dive of the wreck, citing the “Sunken Military Craft Act” law. “That law allows the Department of the Navy to make the determination on whether or not a requested dive might potentially disturb, remove or injure a sunken military craft,” U.S. Navy Cmdr. Brenda Malone says.
Boyne says he just wants to know “why did these men die?” He presented a new explanation for the loss of the sub at a marine forensics symposium in April. “We don’t know why this ship went down, yet they are treating this like there is nothing to see here and we should just move along.”
Boyne says the expedition team still plans a “recreational” investigation of the wreck, which rests in international waters at a location the U.S. Navy considers “secret,” according to Malone. “The absence of a permit for cultural preservation and archeological matters on lands of the U.S. does not affect this recreational dive in the middle of very international waters,” Boyne replied to the Navy in a letter sent Thursday.
(In response to USA TODAY inquiries made in June, Malone said the nuclear torpedoes and reactor that went down with the submarine are “monitored,” but she could not discuss further details.) The Navy has tested the water around the submarine for radioactive releases, at least as recently as 1998.
Theories about the Scorpion’s demise range from a torpedo self-firing into the ship to a battery explosion. There is also Boyne’s suggestion that rubber bearings holding its propeller shaft failed. He says that may have led to a catastrophic failure, spilling water through the propeller shaft opening into the sub too rapidly for the ship to be raised to the surface.
In the denied proposal, the team planned to send a robot sub to the wreck to photograph the displaced shaft. The robot would have sent a small tethered camera into the ship’s engine room to examine the damage to the coupling that held the shaft. Although sending robots to 11,800-feet depths was very difficult when the sub sank, recent decades have seen advances in deep-sea submersibles.
The “recreational” expedition being considered would be led by Wreck Diving Magazine and the accident investigation firm Marine Forensic & Investigation Group (MFI Group) of Summerville, S.C. “A few details are still being worked out, but the expedition will go next year,” MFI Vice President Charles George says.
At least 11 family members of the crew who died on the sub have joined in the call for the expedition.