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Engineering the future

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For chartered engineer Daniel Gilmore, working life is made up of “what ifs”.

  • What if an earthquake struck the Sellafield site, years into the future – could our yet-to-be-built nuclear waste and material stores handle it?
  • What if one of our cranes fell onto one of our nuclear facilities – could it cause enough damage to stop that facility from functioning effectively?
  • What if we changed the foundations of a new building to make it more sustainable, speed up delivery and reduce costs – will the building still be as safe as it needs to be?

Daniel, a chartered engineer, is one of our subject matter experts in finite element analysis.

Sellafield Ltd is almost unique in having its own team, working as part of our design engineering capability, who can be called on to look into the future and predict how our structures will perform in extreme situations.

As the business works to clean up the Sellafield site in West Cumbria, it is creating facilities to deal with the waste and stores which will keep that waste safe and secure for decades to come.

Given the nature of what we do, those facilities and stores have to be able to stand up to anything the next century might throw at them.

We use computer models to assess structures. We might get approached by our civil engineers to test out their designs by subjecting them to a once-in-10,000-years earthquake, or to look at how extreme heat over long periods of time might affect the concrete they want to use.

It means we have a unique relationship with the design teams, we’re here to help them solve problems.

When Daniel joined Sellafield 7 years ago as an engineering graduate, he didn’t have any aspirations to take on this role.

I’d done some work on element analysis as part of the graduate scheme and thought it was an interesting topic, particularly the seismic element of it.

Working at Sellafield you have a lot of opportunity to move roles, so I took one. The level of support I got, and the training was fantastic.

Daniel is based at our offices in Warrington but will be at the Sellafield site soon, looking at the defunct heat exchanger still stood in the Calder Hall former power station.

The 400-tonne monster is set to be craned out of the building, and it’s Daniel’s job to make sure the 70-year-old piece of kit will be able to take the pressures of being lifted.

He also recently worked on one of our soon-to-be-built stores on the Sellafield site. These facilities will be where our waste will go until a permanent place can be found for it, so could be expected to last for decades.

Using his skills Daniel was able to show that the stores didn’t need the foundations specified in the original design. Working with the design team he was able to come up with new solutions that used less concrete but maintained safety, making the building more sustainable and cheaper to build.

It’s interesting work – people come to us with a problem and it’s our job to solve it. Plus moving into this role has given me a transferable skills as well as working in a supportive community with a great atmosphere.

'What if’ your next engineering role was with Sellafield Ltd?

For details of our current engineering vacancies, visit our Sellafield Ltd careers website

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