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Sounding the fire alarm on a nuclear site

Company:

Established in 1954 by the government, the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) was set up to research and develop the country’s civil nuclear programme. As nuclear technology matured, the role of UKAEA diversified into the management of environmental restoration programmes, including the decommissioning of redundant nuclear facilities, management of radioactive wastes and remediation of contaminated land. The UKAEA was privatised in 1996.

Issue:

Formerly a Royal Air force (RAF) base and located in Oxfordshire, Harwell is considered the birthplace of the UK’s nuclear programme. Built-in the 1940s but redeveloped in the 1950s, this consisted of the nuclear reactors and accelerators for the purposes of research as well as radioactive handling facilities and R&D laboratories.

Now in the process of being decommissioned, the UKAEA-owned site is also the home to Harwell Chilton Campus, a centre for science, technology and enterprise innovation and a workplace for 4,000 employees.

During an environmental restoration programme, the volatile nature of the materials involved means a reliable fire and security system needs to be on-site to warn employees of any dangerous incidents. With four main alarms sirens established around the site, in the event of an alarm being activated, an alert is sent to an on-site- Civil Nuclear Constabulary (CNC) Police control room through the Harwell Alarm Monitoring System (HAMS).

Once received, a Harwell site Emergency Response Team is immediately dispatched to the incident area while the incoming alert is instantly diverted to the Oxfordshire Fire & Rescue Service for mobilisation. In 2006, to improve reliability and response times, UKAEA approached Wood & Douglas to replace its outmoded telephone line-based Harwell Alarm Monitoring System (HAMS) with a wireless arrangement.

Solution:

Easily integrated into the PC-based HAMS system, Wood & Douglas deployed the flexible OpenNET 3000 UHF base station. Able to process up to 250 connections, this unit receives and processes data from the 300T radio transmitters installed into each of the four alarm systems.

Boasting a low maintenance ‘fit and forget’ design, the compact 300T radio transmitter has a battery life up to 10 years and is housed in a durable die-cast aluminium case for protection in a challenging industrial nuclear plant environment.

With a transmission range of up to 1000 metres, the 300T is set up to reliably and swiftly communicate with the OpenNET 3000 UHF base station across the sprawling Harwell site in real time.

With the decommissioning process due to be completed in 2022, the need for a dependable modern fire alarm system is still paramount for the safety of UKAEA Harwell Campus and business centre employees. Wood & Douglas’ wireless system is flexible enough to easily fit into UKAEA’s existing monitoring system, providing the reliable and fast connection demanded for such a critical application while helping to improve emergency services’ response times.

  • Critical life-saving transmission of fire alarm signal to a central system
  • The robust 300T ‘fit and forget; radio transmitter sensors requires low maintenance

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