15 Jun 2024

Pioneering cyber security cluster

Dave Jones, Sellafield’s head of Operational Technology Group (OTG), whose ambition is for a state-of-the-art technology centre being developed in Cumbria, which is due to open next month, to be the catalyst for a cluster which leads the way in UK operational technology cyber security.

A new Operational Technology Engineering Centre is being created by Sellafield on the site of the iSH Enterprise Campus in Cumbria to support Sellafield’s mission to create a clean and safe environment for future generations. The state-of-the-art industry centre is designed to be the catalyst for a cluster which will lead the way in UK operational technology cyber security.

Dave Jones, Head of Operational Technology Group (OTG), who leads a team of 200 staff at Sellafield, is heading up the project to develop Unit 18 which will also open up far-reaching opportunities for the wider community. The plans are a major step forward for the new enterprise campus which is being developed by Cumberland Council at Leconfield, Cleator Moor.

The campus will be a base for the Industrial Solutions Hub (iSH), which is looking to build on the nuclear decommissioning expertise of Sellafield and the wider supply chain and, through collaboration with other sectors, industries and academia, find new markets to enable businesses and organisations to diversify and grow. Up to 70 staff will work at Sellafield’s Operational Technology Engineering Centre (OTEC) when it opens next month.

Jones said: “I want West Cumbria to be the centre of OT Cyber Security for the country. The plan for Unit 18 is part of that vision. We are developing an industry leading operational technology service.

“Some of the most skilled people involved in nuclear decommissioning on the planet work in our team. So how do we upskill the next generation who are going to take that journey on and develop them so they have the knowledge and capability to work across multiple facilities?”

Jones has already paved the way for the transition by moving part of his team’s operations to Sellafield’s Engineering Centre of Excellence which shares the same Leconfield campus site.

Jones said: “Working at the Engineering Centre of Excellence has been a massive success for us. We have regularly had 40 of our team working there.

“What we have developed there are properly-configured workstations which are what is needed for professional control systems engineers.

“We have used the Engineering Centre of Excellence as a pilot to start applying the standards that befit a professional engineer and we are developing Unit 18 based on what we have learned there. This will enable us to create even more technology-centric specialist groups.

“It has improved our knowledge management and, through sharing, we are understanding better when and where we have any spare capacity.

“Because we are away from the main plant it also gives engineers time and space to work on bigger work practices and projects and to innovate, rather than getting distracted by being asked to sort other day-to-day tasks.

“Our future development will also enable us to set the standards for instrumentation. Over the last 10 years we have seen the industry move from dumb instruments to smart instruments.

“To help the Sellafield site, we are investing in a new instrumentation test centre which will improve calibration, enhance craft skills, and enable more engagement with supply chain partners.

“We have seen great teamwork at the Engineering Centre of Excellence. We have had engineers working really well with people they have never met before to develop innovative solutions which help drive the organisation forward.
“We will also have the opportunity to train crafts people on new technology like we have had there.”

Jones is also proud of the way working at the centre has opened up more opportunities for apprentices.

“Traditionally in our department we have had four or five apprentices all based within Sellafield. This year we have had seven and have involved the supply chain with two from Jacobs, one from PAR Systems and one from Forth, all working together.

“We rely on the supply chain to deliver a lot of control system work so partnering with them in this way and having a stronger local supply chain is a big benefit to us at Sellafield. Rather than ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ we all get what we need and support each other.”

Jones said Sellafield’s Operational Technology Engineering Centre (OTEC) will enhance the organisation’s capability, both in terms of skills and technology in relation to control systems and wider operational technology.

Company info: Sellafield