The 45th annual meeting of the "hot laboratories and remote handling working group was held in Kendal, England, 22-23 September. The working group was set up in 1963 to encourage and stimulate collaboration between the various European nuclear facilities in order to reach and preserve the high quality of their key competencies. More recently, the Working Group expanded its objectives to other nuclear countries such as Korea, Japan, Canada, the Russia Federation and Australia (http://www.sckcen.be/hotlab/).
Even though initially fission issues oriented, some items are relevant for fusion issues such as confinement, shielding and remote handling. It was therefore a welcome opportunity for Magali Benchikhoune and her ITER Hot Cell team to present the ITER project and the ITER hot cell facility at this year's event. "The questions and discussions with the attendees about tritium confinement, transfer casks and procurement were very interesting", the Section Leader summarized.
This year's meeting aimed at exchanging experience on analytical methods, their implementation in hot cells, the methodologies used and their application in nuclear materials research. The working group also worked out solutions for safe, economic national and international transportation, licensing and regulation issues.
The annual meeting was concluded with a visit to the Sellafield nuclear facilities and the recently opened National Nuclear Laboratory visited.
The Sellafield laboratory is not yet fully commissioned, thus it was possible for the ITER team to access the future hot cells. "These are R&D hot cells composed on removable stainless steel boxes about 18 cubic meters each, Magali Benchikhoune explains. "After each experiment, the boxes are decontaminated and refurbished in order to perform new studies. The floors of some levels in the buildings have a specific epoxy coating for the use of the air cushion transfer flask."
After Sellafield, a visit of the Dounreay site, located in northern Scotland, was organized for the IO team. There they had the chance to visit several types of hot cell facilities (one in dismantling phase, one in operation, one just commissioned), to discuss about the "lessons learnt" and also to analyze some of the main common drivers in the design of nuclear facilities. This exchange was very helpful as the Dounreay team has more than 50 years of experience.