An Eden engineer is using futuristic technology to keep his American clients up to speed on a huge $6m nuclear project.
Andy Barr, the owner of Appleby-based nuclear solutions firm Barrnon, has for the past four years been developing a prototype product which aims to solve one of the world’s biggest environmental problems — how to safely retrieve nuclear sludge.
The company has built an 80ft testing tower to mimic a nuclear fuel tank and is using cutting-edge HoloLens technology to keep clients fully up to speed with the project’s progress.
“With HoloLens, a man in Appleby will wear glasses and then all my clients in America can see exactly what he sees and direct him around the site and ask him questions and ask him to look at things.
“They see exactly what he sees. It’s like a live-stream television camera — but because there are two cameras on it, you get depth perception. It’s like you being there and like you are touching it,” explained Andy.
“Because of COVID they can’t come here, they would love to, but they can’t and it’s a revolutionary way of visualising something which is happening in a different environment.
Barrnon aims to find a way to clean up nuclear waste in underground tanks at the Hanford site in Washington State.
It is suspected the tanks are leaking radioactive waste which could enter the Columbia River.
The million gallon tanks, of which there are 176 in total, are 75ft in diameter and 60ft deep.
Barrnon is working for a US government-owned company called Washington River Protection Solutions on the hi-tech cleanup project.
“What we are trying to do is clean hard heel from the nuclear tanks. This is an inactive environment which we have created at full-scale,” said Andy.
The tower replicates the environment around the tanks, from where a robot cuts and digs up the waste, while being controlled via an umbilical management system.
The waste is turned into a fluid and shot up 80ft to “ground level” before being pumped a further mile to be cyclonically filtered.
“We are the only people in the world to have this — currently we are the only contractor working on a dry waste retrieval solution,” said Andy.
Of the HoloLens technology, he added: “It gives our client confidence that what we are saying we are doing is what we’re doing.
“And also it gives them a greater visibility of our workspace, even though they are 5,000 miles away.”
Of the testing facility, Andy said his team was controlling machinery remotely using virtual reality technology.
“We are bridging the virtual world where a gamer would play games, augmenting the world, and making it real to our environment,” he said.