Sellafield nuke plant considers 3D printing to save UK taxpayers millions of pounds
An ageing nuclear site on the coast of Cumbria might not seem a likely place for 3D printing, but Sellafield’s owners are hoping the innovative technology will save it – and the UK taxpayers – millions of pounds. Sellafield, western Europe’s largest and most complex nuclear waste site, is using 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, to help them decommission some of the most potentially hazardous plants in the world.
It will use 3D printing to replace parts that are no longer made – many of which were one-off designs from 50 years ago – to save time and money when those running the nuclear facility have faced growing criticism for soaring decommissioning costs. These are estimated to total £70bn. Sellafield Ltd, the company that carries out the clean-up work at the Sellafield nuclear facility, recently designed a new lid for a 40-tonne solid-waste export flask, which is used to ship radioactive waste across the Sellafield site. The scan cost about £3,000 compared to the £25,000 it would cost using a metrology rig. "We’re seeing huge numbers of possibilities where we don’t have to redesign work, don’t have to take the plant down and find alternatives," says Alistair Norwood, head of metrology at Sellafield Ltd. Avoiding redesigning a plant or part of it is particularly important because this can cost up to £2m, he adds. Costs at Sellafield have come under scrutiny in recent years. 3D printing could save millions of pounds at Sellafield, with the analysts already identifying several hundred thousand pounds worth of benefit. It is believed to be one of the first nuclear sites to use 3D printing to manufacture parts, with materials ranging from titanium to plastics. 3D printing has been around since the 1980s, when the technology was first used to make plastic products. In recent years the technology has advanced, however, so that companies are able to build complex shapes from metals, such as titanium or aluminium, by using lasers to melt metal powders. Companies have mainly used 3D printing to make prototype parts and products for testing. But several of the world’s biggest manufacturers, such as GE, BAE Systems and Siemens, are using the technology in production. In January, Siemens began using 3D printing to make spare parts for gas turbines. 
  • Irish legally allowed to seek reparations from British nuclear operators British nuclear operators are likely to be sued for billions of pounds by the Irish government and Irish victims of any radioactive damage they cause under legal changes to be introduced this year. Dublin officials have long reported about the potential impact of the UK's civil nuclear programme close to the Irish shores, with specific focus on the safety record of Sellafield. The Cumbria site is located less than 100 miles from Ireland's east coast. It is known that Ireland itself produces no nuclear energy. However the Greenpeace has warned that the dumping of the reprocessing plant's liquid waste has made the Irish Sea among the most contaminated waters in the world. Irish fishermen have caught unsalable mutated fish. They also claim to have been exposed to low-level radiation. Ireland's government and environmental campaigners have struggled to find international legal way to suppress Britain's nuclear activity, which is soon to be expanded with a new fleet of power plants starting with Hinkley Point C, located in Somerset. 
  • 3D printer makes reefs to save ecosystem from erosion One of the world's largest 3D printers is making reefs to save the ecosystem from erosion. Italian inventor Enrico Dini is creating unique artificial reefs with the help of his 3D printer in hopes of preserving coastal reefs. The piece of technology that constructs the reefs not only aims to achieve leaps and bounds under the sea, Dini wants to make sand-based structures for humans to use too. In his childhood, Dini spent a large amount of his time at the beach playing with sand. Years later, the inventor is still "playing" with the material as it is just one ingredient he uses to make large-scale replicas of reefs from his gigantic 3D printer. Source: