Robin Ibbotson joined Sellafield Ltd in late 2021 as our new chief technical officer. He came to us from BAE systems where he was director of technology and industrial strategy. He's worked in many scientific roles in his career.
For British Science Week, Robin talks about the importance of science at Sellafield.
Sellafield Ltd is full of innovative people. It has a long history and much of the Sellafield site may be ageing, but this is where the need for science comes in. Because of the nature of the site we cannot deliver our purpose unless we are being inventive about the work we do.
Our people are creating incredible pieces of work, both in our own teams and through collaboration with others. We need that element of partnership to deliver what we need to do. And collaborative programmes such as Game Changers help create solutions that don’t just benefit us but also the wider industry.
When you look at the Sellafield site you can see the scale of the challenge we have, but also the huge scope for scientific innovation and advances.
We have a huge need for scientists in our organisation, and we have the partnerships in place to allow them to thrive.
The greatest thing for scientists working at Sellafield Ltd is you have the opportunity to have a career as a scientist, working in a variety of areas across our business. That offers a broader experience and means we are always looking for new recruits as our people diversify.
Science is in everything we do. When we're getting waste out of a silo not opened for decades, we don’t know how that waste will behave. Science helps us make decisions about how we get it out, what it is likely to do and how best it should be handled, treated and stored.
The work we are doing in thermal, heating up materials for storage, is exciting. It could dramatically increase the efficiency of what we do, reduce costs and bring huge savings. It will also offer great opportunities for collaboration with our supply chain.
Robotics and artificial intelligence
This year we will open our first robotics and artificial intelligence collaboration hub (RAICO1). It's a facility in Whitehaven to test new ideas and technology.
We’re working with many collaborative partners like Manchester University, United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, National Nuclear Laboratory and academia to create it. For me this work is about the opportunities we have to move people away from risk. We will always need people involved no matter how complex the technology gets. But robotics and artificial intelligence can help make the work we do safer by putting more distance between our people and the materials and environments we are dealing with.
Why Sellafield Ltd?
I considered Sellafield Ltd for a move despite having a fantastic career elsewhere, because I saw it as a attractive place to work.
For a scientist, it's a case of why wouldn’t you want to work here? There are so many problems to solve, we have so many capable people and partners we can pull on for advice. The scientific challenges we have here are as big as any across the world.
The work is also morally right. We are making an impact on the environment and society. Decommissioning sites like Sellafield, making them clean and safe for future generations can only be a good thing.
It’s the right thing to do. And for any scientist, being part of something so huge and worthwhile is a dream.