National Nuclear Laboratory


Tuesday 24 September 2019

NNL Central to International, Cross-Sector Deal with TEPCO and Rawwater Engineering Company

Rawwater Engineering Company, whose specialist alloy seals for the oil and gas sector are being adapted to support Sellafield decommissioning challenges, has announced a contract that will take the company into the Japanese nuclear sector.

Major Japanese energy operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) is to explore the use of Rawwater Molten Metal Manipulation technology (M3) technology across its nuclear power plants. Rawwater adaptations of the bismuth metal alloy technology it introduced to the oil and gas industries resulted in a suite of alloys offering significant benefits to the nuclear industry.

Trials of the M3 technology in simulated Sellafield applications are producing extremely encouraging results. M3 can seal large openings or fill micron sized cracks or pores, preventing fluid leakage. Useable underwater or in the air, it can stabilise a structure and provide radioactive shielding. Other key features include reduced recovery costs and extreme longevity (anticipated at 3,000 years in the oil and gas sector).

The TEPCO deal has been brokered by the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) who will monitor the Rawwater project. NNL will produce independent reports for TEPCO which will include results from demonstrations of the technology at their Workington facility in Cumbria.

Rawwater made the transition into the nuclear sector through Sellafield’s Game Changers programme.  Game Changers is an innovation programme designed to identify and develop technologies that can offer significant, pioneering advances in the decommissioning of Sellafield. The programme is delivered by NNL and FIS360, specialists in supporting innovative technologies from concept to commercial production.

Rawwater pioneered the use of bismuth metal alloy plugs for the oil and gas industries as a superior option to cement. Adaptations combining bismuth with other metals resulted in alloys that can be tailored to expand, contract or remain neutral as needed when they solidify, offering significant benefits to the nuclear sector.

The TEPCO agreement follows earlier success and recognition of Rawwater technology by the Ministry of Defence. Rawwater is working with the MoD to engineer M3 technology into a portable backpack that would provide instant, emergency metal repairs for use on the front line. The kit would enable military personnel to spray a patch that solidifies immediately over a damaged surface. It means for example that troops could instantly repair a fuel tank damaged under fire without having to empty the tank.

Rawwater MD Prof Robert Eden PhD said: ” We’re delighted the versatility and effectiveness of M3 have been acknowledged so widely and are excited by the prospect of working with such prestigious partners.”

NNL International Account Director Kat Lennox said: ” We very much look forward to continuing our work with TEPCO and Rawwater as they explore the full potential of this highly promising technology.”