A £3 million competition for bright ideas to clean up old nuclear power stations has been launched.
Run by Innovate UK and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), the initiative is initially focused on closing down the ageing Sellafield facility in Cumbria but winning ideas could be used to decommission other nuclear sites in the future.
The competition is awarding an initial £750,000 to a shortlist of 15 projects to help them develop their ideas.
Proposals have already suggested using novel technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, robots, drones and lasers to dismantle highly radioactive buildings and infrastructure as safely, quickly and cost effectively as possible.
Winners will be picked at the end of the year, when they will begin to build prototypes using the remaining funds.
Many of the shortlisted entries come from companies that have never worked in the nuclear industry before.
Melanie Brownridge, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s (NDA) Head of Technology, said: “The response we have had to this competition has been fantastic. We’ve been really impressed by the standard of proposals and the healthy numbers of applicants.
“I’m also extremely encouraged by the high level of interest from organisations outside the nuclear sector, offering highly innovative solutions from industries such as the oil and gas sector, defence industries and even space exploration.”
A nuclear cleanup agreement between the US and UK has been extended for another five years.