Drone to probe Sellafield silos

Nick Hopkins and Owen Bowcott

A small drone is being developed for use at some of the oldest radioactive silos at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing site because scientists are not sure what is inside them, the Guardian can reveal.

The hope is that an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) could use laser profiling to map the inside of the chambers and make work easier for experts who are trying to make them safe as part of a decommissioning and cleaning process.

The company responsible for Sellafield asked the University of Warwick to develop a UAV for the task and is funding the programme.

“We were told not to expect it to come back out,” said Richard Seager, the university’s business development manager.

There are more than 1,000 installations at Sellafield, a 6 sq km site in Cumbria that has been the hub of the UK’s nuclear industry for decades.