July 18, 2022
Dismantling nuclear power plants can take many years and involve complex safety and storage issues. But one company is doing its best to minimize waste by cleaning up old kits and selling “pre-loved” items at auction.
A control panel and ‘before and after’ photos of a Land Rover (Image: Ramco)
Ramco, which works with Britain’s Ministry of Defence, has teamed up with Magnox and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to sell surplus assets from nuclear power plants – large-scale industrial sites that almost look like small villages in their own right – as downgraded.
The type of items being auctioned include general industrial kit – tables and chairs and catering equipment, as well as forklifts – but on a very large scale. For example, Ramco’s chief operating officer, Adrian Foreman, said he auctioned off 60 truckloads of equipment from the Bradwell nuclear site in the UK.
While radioactive waste issues are usually at the center of decommissioning efforts, Ramco has found market and value for things like 120 tons of scaffolding at a factory – as Foreman puts it, in size, “reactors look more like cathedrals and so they needed a lot of scaffolding.”
Other items include flood barriers, pumps and generators, and aging Land Rover Defenders that were once used to tow salt spreaders to keep the site safe during winter conditions.
Foreman himself has bought and refurbished an old minibus from a nuclear power plant, turning it into a motorhome, while an old ambulance has been refurbished and is operational again, traveling to Ukraine to help doctors there .
While most of these items are practical for general industrial use, there was also a control panel sold last year – this was for the CCTV control desk – where the ability to own part of a nuclear power plant has gained a lot of attention from the media and the auction public.
Foreman says Ramco, which started in 1996, has seen its mission come with a broader recognition of the importance of sustainability, as well as financial returns: “Our goal is to keep things from follow the path of waste and provide a return for our customers. Seems like a no-brainer to us – you have all this stuff there that people might not have thought of, but has the potential for a long future working life. In the past, many of these things would just be thrown away and sent for scrap. We take the stress out of business and remove these items, adding value where possible and finding a new home for them.
The company has nothing to do, so far anyway, with the reactors themselves. Beyond any security concerns, “even we would struggle to find accommodation for a bespoke part of the reactor that was probably designed in the 1950s or 1960s” – but as sites are decommissioned and the plant area shrinks, they help remove assets on place. Currently, supply chain difficulties, for example, have meant that some of the catering equipment, such as long-discontinued canteen combination ovens, is proving popular, says Foreman. .
But what about security issues? Do people really want to own part of a nuclear power plant?
Any material supplied to them for resale or verification must first go through testing by nuclear site personnel “and they are very, very thorough,” says Foreman, whose company also has expertise and radiation testing licenses, which must be used for things like compasses and other equipment from any industrial source.
“There are people who have the wrong idea about security issues – looking at things like Chernobyl – but there are a lot of people, like me, who are interested in science and the nuclear industry and can see how good that is and contributes to sustainability,” Foreman said.
With the upcoming increase in dismantling activity in the UK, Ramco hopes to be able to breathe new life into many more lesser-known parts of these giant power stations.
Research and writing by World Nuclear News