Createc and MHI begin deployment of first-of-a-kind ‘extreme’ radiation sensor at Fukushima

Createc and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) have begun deployment of Createc’s new sensor system, Fuel Finder A (FF-A), at Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in Japan, which was devastated by the tsunami that breached its flood walls in 2011. The ground-breaking system, built on our proprietary N-Visage® technology, was designed and developed using components that were tested against the extremely high dose rates expected in the Primary Containment Vessel at Fukushima.

“The levels of radiation in this environment would instantly disable even the most robust traditional radiation instruments. We had to design something completely bespoke, pushing the field of radiation measurement and imaging to new extremes. Our system uses combined data from gamma cameras, sonar, radiation hardened cameras and novel structured light elements. It is being deployed on a boom and is designed to fit through an existing narrow penetration into the vessel and be operated remotely via a web user interface. We’re really excited to see this technology go out to Japan, to perform a critical task for the clean-up of Fukushima.” Says Createc’s Chief Nuclear Scientist, Alan Shippen.

Since the end of May 2022, the Createc team have been working with their MHI colleagues to perform the initial unit and combination testing of our FF-A sensor system in Naraha, Japan. This test is the first time that the FF-A sensor has been seated and integrated with the VNS Boom on which it will be deployed into Fukushima unit 2 to participate in the Pressure Containment Vessel Investigation (PCVI). Our engineers performed a series of scans to ensure the system was working effectively and to provide valuable data which we will use to improve the overall system behaviour to achieve the project outcomes of creating a safer and cleaner Fukushima.

The next phase of the project will see further testing, development and refinement including irradiation testing before we commence the active deployment.

This achievement includes the results of research and development which MHI, as a member of IRID (International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning), has had implemented by the subsidy of the projects of METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) on the internal investigation of the Unit 2 PCV at the Fukushima Daiichi NPS.

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Matt Mellor, CEO, Createc

Matt Mellor, Managing Director

Matt Mellor started his career as an academic working in research and development at Oxford University where his specialist field was in computer vision and robotics with medical application. But in writing papers, which he says were mainly “read by other academics so they could cite it in their research”, Matt could see there was a vital component missing.

“To turn that research into a product I learned that you have got to make that happen yourself to ensure others recognise the value of it,” said Matt. “That started me on an odyssey to learn about the full process of technological development. That means not just learning about technology, but also about business, people, finance – all the parts you need to make something happen which is going to make a positive change in the world.”

With that in mind, Matt moved to Cumbria and joined REACT Engineering. “REACT put the emphasis on entrepreneurship and I joined the company to apply what I had learned in nuclear medicine to nuclear engineering.” In particular, Matt was able to apply his knowledge in medical imaging to provide smart, technological solutions to the nuclear clean-up industry.

In 2007, Matt was the technical lead in setting up REACT’s own spin-out – aerial surveying company, Hi-Def, which gave him valuable experience of the process involved in setting up a spin-out business. Hi-Def went on to be a sustainable, successful business in its own right and in 2016 became part of the BioConsult SH group. Meanwhile, Matt set up Createc in June 2010, and as CEO has led the company to achieve impressive growth ever since.

Createc started out with just three members of staff – Matt, Alan Shippen and Pete Rodgers. The company’s mission was to create a profitable business out of computer vision and robotics research and development, demonstrating the value such a service adds to industry. Building on technological expertise in the nuclear sector learned from REACT Engineering, Createc developed its N-Visage® technology which went on to be used in the clean-up following the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan.

Closer to home, Createc used its intellectual property in computer vision to build a business opportunity and set up spin-out company, Sportlight. Earlier this year, it launched a second spin-out from its robotics expertise creating Createc Robotics.

Looking ahead, as society and industry move out of a Covid-19 lockdown, Matt sees robotics playing an ever more important role – but warns those who think it will be an overnight change, to be more patient. “Society has always overestimated what technological development will take place over a two to five-year period. But it has always underestimated what development will take place over 20 years,” said Matt.

“Technological development is an accumulation of small goals which build on top of each other. It creeps forward so that over a 20-year period people then look back and are amazed at how much the world has changed. In 20 years’ time we are going to have a lot more robots, and we will have improved collaboration between human and machine. In some areas that might involve helping to remove people from having to carry out tasks in hazardous environments. In other areas it might be giving people more senses and more capabilities.”

Createc applies its thinking and technologies to any problem to find a solution, and takes a flexible approach when doing so. This means that it can adapt for a range of industries and a range of situations. “We look at the way we can do something, not where we can do it,” said Matt. It’s an approach which has seen its solutions applied in a range of industries and settings, including nuclear and defence, rail and security. Among future growth areas for Createc are heavy engineering, major industrial and general construction.

Createc has received two Queen’s Awards in recent years, one for International Trade and one for Innovation, recognising the company’s success in developing technology. The company is also proud to have won awards for innovation from The Institution for Engineering and Technology (IET), The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

Createc’s strategy as it moves beyond its 10-year anniversary is to concentrate on research and development to launch a series of further spin-out companies. Two things Matt is keen to influence in the wider economy to help support the company’s ambitions are funding and leadership. “We need to make sure that the UK is more start-up friendly. And we need more entrepreneurs who want to come and run these businesses,” said Matt. “To me an entrepreneur takes complete ownership and picks their way forward and proceeds confidently in the face of doubt.”

“We have had a sustained growth rate of 40 per cent, and we are focused on continuing to grow at this rate. In the first ten years we have grown from a company with three people turning over £180,000 to 30 people turning over £3.5m. To sustain that level of growth by the end of the next ten years we would have 300 people turning over more than £60m.”

Matt has a clear vision of how the company will keep driving forward, and his motivation and appetite to lead the company to further success is clear. “My motivation comes from bringing something completely new to life which results in the world being a better place,” he said. “Seeing all the pieces come together and creating this thing which creates an economic benefit and also has a positive impact on the world is really satisfying.”