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Training powers future skills at Sellafield

P4 Unitrunk Training Academy

Around 21% of the UK’s power consumption is currently supplied by nuclear energy but much of our nuclear capacity is due to be decommissioned by 2025 due to the age of the reactors and the possibility of replacing older technologies with newer, safer and more efficient nuclear generation. However, nuclear power plays an even greater role in the Government’s energy strategy going forward, with plans to increase resilience in our energy supply through the new reactors currently being planned, designed and constructed. These proposals include new nuclear facilities at Hinkley Point C, Sizewell C, Wylfa Newydd, Oldbury and Bradwell B, along with the decommissioning of existing nuclear plant at Sellafield and development of new reactors on the site.

Sellafield was the site of the world’s first commercial nuclear power station to generate electricity on an industrial scale. Nuclear power generation ceased on the site in 2003 and Sellafield’s Windscale reactor is amongst the nuclear assets currently being decommissioned; a process which involves considerable construction activity to enable the painstaking process of dismantling the plant and creating nuclear storage facilities. It is anticipated that this will be followed by the construction of new generation nuclear generation capability in a rolling project that has seen Sellafield become one of the largest construction sites in Europe, with a huge requirement for skilled labour over the next two decades.

With so much activity planned at Sellafield and other existing and proposed nuclear generation and reprocessing plants around the UK over the next 20-30 years, there is a significant requirement to train new talent in the use of materials that have been approved for use in the nuclear industry. Sellafield alone takes on 30-35 new electrical and instrumentation apprentices each year, supporting them through a four-year level 3 apprenticeship to enable them to play an important role in decommissioning works and nuclear asset development.

All nuclear sector projects must be delivered to mission critical deadlines and with absolute design and construction integrity to support this highly specialist and technical environment. That’s why Unitrunk was approached to deliver both classroom and practical training to Sellafield apprentices in the second year of their apprenticeships, providing an insight into different cable management systems and finishes along with practical installation skills for Unitrunk’s Easy Connect cable basket RIS (Rapid Installation System) range, which has been approved for use in nuclear projects.


Supply Chain Engagement

After spending the first year of their four-year apprenticeship studying at the Gen2 Energus training centre at Lillyhall, near Workington, the electrical and instrumentation apprentices are based on site at Sellafield, with training providers delivering training at the Sellafield Skills Centre. This enables them to combine classroom and practical training with hands-on involvement in delivering projects.

Inclusion of cable management training from Unitrunk in the apprenticeship programme came about when head of apprentice training at Sellafield, Steve Bewsher, asked wholesaler, Rexel Group, to recommend an existing approved supplier that could offer on-site training. As Unitrunk is not only an approved supplier for Sellafield but also has existing partnerships with further education colleges and an established track record of delivering both CPD training and on-site cutting and bending training, Rexel helped to put the wheels in motion for the Unitrunk team to develop a tailored course for Sellafield apprentices.


Product Selection

The training begins with a classroom presentation based on Unitrunk’s CPD presentation about correct specification of cable management materials. This session includes both electrical and instrumentation apprentices and design apprentices, who will be responsible for designing the cable management infrastructure into future projects. The session advises the apprentices on environmental factors affecting each element of the project, encouraging them to run through a checklist of considerations such as whether the cable management is required indoors, where it will be protected from the elements, or outdoors where it will be exposed, whether the atmosphere will be clean or polluted and what the impact of Sellafield’s coastal location will be on product selection.

The presentation discusses the scale of corrosion risk for cable management, discussing how each corrosion category can affect the integrity of the finished installation over time and referring the apprentices to the British Galvanisers ‘Corrosion Map of the UK’ for a more detailed breakdown of corrosion risk across the country.

The presentation goes on to explain the differences in finish available for cable management products and outlines the processes involved in manufacturing ‘pre-galvanised’ and ‘hot dipped galvanised’ products and the varying levels of corrosion resistance they provide. The presentation also explains environments where stainless steel or Corten A steel may be required to provide additional resilience, and reiterates the need for informed product choices to avoid over or under-specification.

The classroom training also provides an opportunity to discuss the various types of cable management that may be used on site, including cable ladder, cable tray, cable basket and trunking, highlighting common applications for each generic system type. This provides an opportunity to discuss scenarios where cable basket can be used instead of cable tray to reduce installation times and load bearing requirements while still offering a robust installation.

Finally, students are introduced to Unitrunk’s Rapid Installation Systems philosophy (RIS) and the EasyConnect system, which provides a fast and simple approach to installation with no tools or nuts and bolts required, thanks to the integral coupler that pushes together to form a secure joint. Unlike conventional couplers, this cannot loosen over time due to movement or vibration,



The final part of the classroom session provides the perfect segue to the hands-on cutting and bending training provided as part of the course. Involving electrical and instrumentation apprentices only, this element of the training combines demonstrations of forming common tees, bends and joins with practical experience of handling the product. Apprentices learn about bend radii, using the right depth and width of tray for the cabling requirements, use of dividers to separate power and data cabling and common installation requirements such as connecting cable basket to channel or utilising cable basket as risers.

By the end of the two hour session, the apprentices are confident at cutting, shaping, bending and connecting the EasyConnect cable basket and competent in handling the product safely. It’s important that they have the skills to benefit from the rapid installation design of the product and that they learn safe cutting and bending techniques as this will help Sellafield to leverage the full value of reduced installation times and labour costs while ensuring the site benefits from robust installations with an extended service life.

Following the two-hour practical session delivered by the Unitrunk team, the apprentices are able to practice the skills they have learned under the supervision of Sellafield’s in-house team, configuring the product to varied instructions to ensure they have become fully-proficient.

Across the construction sector there is constant talk of the skills gap and the need for new talent to be brought into the industry. At Unitrunk, we believe that active engagement between supply chain partners is a vital to addressing the skills gap and our work with Sellafield’s apprentices, facilitated by the wholesaler, demonstrates the success and future potential of this approach.


The author

Paul Nolan from cable management specialist, Unitrunk, discusses the training the company provides to electrical & instrumentation and design apprentices at Sellafield


Unitrunk 07920 745608

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