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Awards 2024

Nuclear specialist plans for growth

A company which specialises in remote handling in the nuclear sector has plans to take on 20 more employees as it grows the business following a rebrand.

PAR Systems, which has been trading in West Cumbria since 2010, has rebranded as CORE Nuclear Solutions.

The company, based in Lillyhall but also with offices in Haile, near Egremont, was originally set up in the area as part of the United States-headquartered PAR Systems group to maintain remote handling equipment on the Sellafield site.

Current managing director John McGibbon joined in 2015 as engineering and business development director at a time when there were just four employees in the business.

After re-establishing and growing the business, he completed a management buyout three years ago to run it as an independent company alongside co-director Robin Graham.

The business initially kept the PAR Systems name but has now rebranded as CORE Nuclear Solutions to better reflect the range of work they do.

Its central focus remains unchanged, manufacturing and maintaining equipment such as nuclear cranes, manipulators, robotics and high radiation cameras.

“We work with our customers all the way through the process, from problems coming in, through the design to building, testing, commissioning, installation and lifetime support,” says John.

As well as Sellafield, CORE Nuclear Solutions carries out work at the Dounreay nuclear site on the north coast of Scotland and Rolls-Royce’s nearby Vulcan site.

This is in addition to work at Magnox sites in the UK, as well as overseas at the Institute for Energy Technology laboratory located at Kjeller, near Oslo, Norway.

"We have picked up more and more equipment types and categories," says John.

"We started off with just maintaining manipulators then we've developed the design capability so we can do our own in-house design. We've developed into crane manufacture and crane maintenance. We've picked up nuclear cameras as well, so we look after all of Sellafield's in-cell high radiation cameras for them.”

John says in the future it will focus on continuing to grow its capability, turnover and staff skills and numbers.

"A lot of the business is about people, how we retain our people, how we grow our people and develop the next generation of skilled engineers," he says.

"Skills in this industry is a key thing. Particularly here in West Cumbria, it's really hard to get people in the first place. The most important thing we can do is train our people properly and make sure we look after them well so that we keep them for the long term.”

The business takes on a minimum of two apprentices each year and currently employs a total of eight.

This is in addition to taking on work experience students from local schools and colleges and having its technical director volunteer at the Energy Coast UTC, in Lillyhall.

John says, in addition to Sellafield, the business continues to tender and win more work in the UK and beyond at sites including Dounreay, BAE Systems in Barrow, and across the Magnox estate.

“We would like to get to 60 employees in the next two years but getting the right calibre of people is the challenge, but we’re succeeding right now,” says John.

"We're pushing heavily into robotics, so we are working on the production of standardised robotic equipment for nuclear sites. A lot of the stuff we have to do starts with looking backwards, looking back at how we substantiate and replace legacy equipment with modern equivalents to current legal requirements.

“So there's a lot of work going into retrospective engineering and that obsolescence piece and how you come up with a pragmatic solution for something going forward that can also be UKCA or CE marked.”