3D Printing Used to Decommission Nuclear Plants
Kyle Maxey posted on May 13, 2014 |
An ever-expanding AM technology proves useful in a nuclear decommissioning effort.
3d printing, nuclear plant, UK, hazard, metal, plasticEurope’s largest nuclear decommissioning site is employing 3D printing to speed up and reduce the cost of its efforts.

In another testament to the versatility of additive manufacturing, Sellafield Ltd, the company in charge of decommissioning the UK’s Windscale and Calder Hall nuclear reactors, will use 3D printing to build parts critical to the plants’ cleanup.

Although it would be significantly cheaper to purchase off the shelf parts for both atomic-age Cumbrian plants, many of the components the facilities use have been out of production for decades, making them impossible to find.

With that reality getting in the way of a safe and speedy cleanup, engineers at Sellafield turned to AM to solve some of their most daunting design problems. Case in point, Sellafeld recently designed a new lid for one of its 40-ton nuclear waste export flasks. By using 3D scanning engineers were able to quickly and accurately recreate the geometry of a legacy component, saving time and thousands of dollars. From those 3D scans a new lid will be printed, saving even further costs.

That’s only one example of the way 3D printing will be used to curb expenses, engineers expect AM to play a big roll in a number of future component redesigns in both plastic and metal.

Given that the estimated cost of the two plants’ decommissioning has ballooned to $118 billion, any savings that can be wrung out of the project will be greatly appreciated by the UK taxpayers.

Still years away from completing the safe decommissioning, additive manufacturing is forging new paths into a diverse range of industries. If the technology can prove itself to be safe enough to use in the sensitive business of handling the world’s most hazardous materials, one has to think it has a place in nearly every industry that requires manufacturing.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

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