Specialist engineering firm Barrnon has won a significant accolade for its innovation – the Queen’s Award for Enterprise.
It is the only firm in Cumbria to receive the prestigious accolade this year.
Barrnon, based in Appleby, focuses on modular technology that allows nuclear facilities to lower the cost of decommissioning and reduce human exposure to radiation.
It has developed and patented a proven nuclear technology called Bladecutter, matched with hydraulically-powered robotic solutions.
The award recognises its work in invention, design and production.
Owner Andy Barr said: “We are incredibly proud of our unique work. It recognises the strengths of our organisation.
“This is a great achievement. Credit to the team and to our clients both here in the UK and across the Atlantic in America.”
Barrnon spent four years developing a product which aims to solve one of the world’s biggest environmental problems – how to safely retrieve nuclear waste.
Last summer, the company built an 80ft testing tower to mimic nuclear storage and used HoloLens tech to keep American clients fully up to speed with the project’s progress.
Barrnon is currently in contract to find a way to clean up nuclear waste in underground tanks at the Hanford site in Washington State.
It is suspected some of the tanks are leaking radioactive waste.
The million gallon tanks, of which there are 176 in total, are 75ft in diameter and 60ft deep.
The tower replicates the environment around the tanks, from where a robot cuts and digs up the waste, while being controlled via an umbilical management system.
The waste is turned into a fluid and pumped up 80ft to ‘ground level’ before being transferred a further mile to be safely stored.
“We are the only people in the world to have this technology,” added Andy.
The Queen’s Award entry was supported by several clients including Doug Reid from the US government’s chief technology office.
He said: “It is very impressive to see Her Majesty the Queen recognise Barrnon, a company we partner with, in the development of retrieval technology for the Hanford nuclear reservation.
“Their creative and robust solutions have and continue to solve unique global problems. Congratulations on a well-deserved award.”
Barrnon has also developed a remotely operable, hydraulic powered platform (called Barrnon Integrated Decommissioning System or BIDS) to support the mission to clean up Sellafield site in West Cumbria – the UK’s largest nuclear site and home to the country’s oldest and most hazardous nuclear facilities.
After being named as one of the winners of a Nuclear Decommissioning Authority competition, winning the active demonstration, the unique technology is used for characterising, cutting, manipulating and recovering hazardous waste structures and is being created to go on site.
The award, which is approved by the Queen, comes as the company submitted plans to turn a site near Penrith’s auction mart into a hi-tech research and development facility – creating up to 250 new jobs.
Permission is being sought to develop an eight-acre site off Mile Lane, Penrith, where a multi-use building would provide a test facility for the cutting-edge robotics equipment in which Barrnon specialises, along with 50,000 square feet of manufacturing space and 37,000sq ft of offices, on two levels.
The move is to meet rising global demand for the innovative Barrnon prototypes in the nuclear decommissioning sector.
The Queen’s Award for Enterprise is the most prestigious business award in the UK. It recognises outstanding achievements in the fields of innovation, international trade, sustainable development and promoting opportunity.
Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Cumbria, Claire Hensman, said: “Congratulations to Barrnon Ltd for winning a Queen’s Award.
“It is a highly valued badge of excellence and gives them the recognition they deserve. I hope it will help their business and that their success will encourage others also to try for a Queen’s Award in the future.
“COVID-19 has set us the challenge of a lifetime, threatening great damage to our local economy.
“My sympathy to all those for whom the disruption to their business environment has caused anxiety and financial hardship; we are all having to learn constantly to adapt.
“Despite the current setbacks, opportunities will also arise for innovative ways of working.
“I am sure that in Cumbria we have the skills and motivation to seize these opportunities.”
Barrnon started in October 2007 in Appleby when Andy decided to set up a company that could push his engineering ideas to the limit.
Barrnon’s early work was in the marine industry, creating exceptionally efficient and hard-wearing scallop fishing gear.
Its big nuclear breakthrough came in 2013 when it was contracted to Hunterston A to provide a turnkey solution for sludge recovery.
A year later it had its first patent granted for the Bladecutter.
Barrnon has won several awards to date including the innovate UK SME award for Innovation in 2016 and the Real Innovation Award from the London Business School.
Andy also owns Barrnon Media Ltd, parent company of the Keswick Reminder.