Sellafield Ltd deployed Opentree’s engineering data management platform Cabinet to provide support to its nuclear decommissioning work, helping achieve initial compliance with BIM Level 2 requirements and providing a secure platform for enhanced use of BIM in the future.

Sellafield Ltd - the company

Sellafield in west Cumbria is the site of the world’s first commercial nuclear power station (Calder Hall) to generate electricity on an industrial scale. This plant is now undergoing decommissioning and dismantling. Sellafield Ltd is the company responsible for this nuclear decommissioning and clean-up work, reporting to the UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), and employing over 13,000 workers.  Sellafield Ltd was taken under direct control of the NDA in 2016, making the company a subsidiary of HM Government.

The challenge

The initial information management project was stimulated by work relating to a new Box Encapsulation Plant Product Store Direct Import Facility (BEPPS DIF) which will provide an import capability and above ground storage for contained intermediate level waste (ILW). Andy Holt was appointed building information manager on this project in 2014, and, with engineering delivery manager Rob Oliver, set about creating a more structured approach to the plant’s immediate and future information management needs.

To help manage the decommissioning and clean-up work, Sellafield Ltd relies on a huge archive of legacy information, some of it decades old and much of it paper-based. Moreover, the information challenge was complex: the archive included details of planned projects that were not realised; there were records which had been superseded by new data; and all data needed to be evaluated for future reuse. The archive comprised around 131,000 objects (documents, drawings or other files), of which around 50,000 were needed to create a ‘configuration baseline’ for the company’s work.

As a 3D building information model of the BEPPS DIF facility had been developed, Holt extended the BIM-based approach, in collaboration with the BIM team of the engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning (EPCC) contractor. By capturing relevant metadata in a more consistent way, Sellafield Ltd could provide verified deliverables to its facility operations team. Needing an engineering document management system capable of managing both legacy information and BIM outputs compliant with UK BIM Level 2 requirements, Holt selected Opentree’s Cabinet platform.

Initial technology implementation

Opentree’s Cabinet allowed Sellafield Ltd to manage its documents, CAD models and drawings from creation to maintenance of the facility, following BIM level 2 principles, and ensuring compliance with PAS1192-2 in particular. To support Sellafield Ltd’s internal operations, access to Cabinet was enabled via cloud-hosted ‘virtual desktops’ (managed by Atlas Cloud) using Citrix screen-sharing. This ‘off network’ approach provided a quick and simple solution to collecting outputs from the EPCC contractor and its supply chain.

Data from older systems was migrated into Cabinet and, importantly, linked to other systems. Echoing Microsoft user interfaces, it was simple to use, highly configurable to meet Sellafield Ltd’s requirements, and could automate business processes while providing a complete and accurate audit and revision history for lifetime records.

“Cabinet is so unassuming, it helped with user adoption of BIM processes,” said Holt. “It helped us do what we needed to do; we were able to establish a metadata structure that helped us group information together, and provided simple keywords that helped users find information quickly. Our key users were already working closely with the data so they understood it and knew how it needed to be organised.”

Internal hosting

However, while readily accepted by initial users, the remote Atlas Cloud hosting option would not allow Sellafield Ltd to manage information within its protected network. In addition, it was important to deliver the service closer to the users (via an on-premise network) as project close-out approached. Holt developed a guidance note in mid-2017 to help the company migrate from the Atlas Cloud-hosted Citrix-based option to a new implementation of Cabinet hosted internally in Sellafield Ltd’s data centre.

Opentree MD Andy Frank worked closely with Holt and with Sellafield Ltd’s data centre staff to install and configure Cabinet on its servers for internal deployment. The initial 10 user licences associated with the first implementation will be migrated to the on-premise installation as the project prepares to hand over the records to the operations and maintenance teams.


  • Documented compliance with BS1192 and related BIM Level 2 requirements, including PAS1192-2
  • Easier integration with third party applications (less ‘reinventing the wheel’, more ‘WORM: Write Once, Read Many’)
  • More consistent, standardised workflows across Sellafield Ltd, its contractors and subcontractors
  • Cabinet helping to confirm documents for the configuration baseline, a requirement for operational readiness.

Lessons learned

  • By echoing interfaces familiar to Microsoft users, Cabinet helped users adopt BIM working processes and practices, building on their understanding of existing legacy information
  • Opentree’s adherence to open standards and maintenance of well-documented APIs provides a strong basis for integration with other toolsets, both cloud and on-premise
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