The UK National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) has selected US-based Jacobs to procure more than 100 new remotely operated manipulator robots for its Windscale Laboratory in West Cumbria.

Jacobs robotics specialists will work with Wälischmiller Engineering to acquire replacement machines to 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 manipulator with radiation protection in 12 of the facility's highly radioactive caves. Numech's involvement in the project is expected to bring additional, important economic benefits to Cumbria.

Jacobs Energy, Security & Technology Senior Vice President Karen Wiemelt said the project builds on 15 years of supporting NNL and “will help us continue pushing the boundaries of robotics in nuclear research”. 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's Engineering & Technology Centre near the Sellafield site.

Jacobs says robotics is a major focus of its investment in research and development. In 2022 it acquired the staff and assets of UK company Resolve Robotics, which has developed innovative autonomous systems for hazardous environments. Jacobs is also investing $4.6m to open the Centre for Robotic Autonomy in Demanding & Long-lasting Environments, to support PhD research at the University of Manchester. Jacobs is 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 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."

Image courtesy of Jacobs