Physical Infrastructure Preparation for Network Migration

URENCO is a world-leading uranium enrichment plant, supplying more than 50 utilities in 19 countries around the world. In operation for more than 40 years, Urenco is one of only four companies capable of undertaking this sort of work.

As URENCO makes a substantial contribution to our total supply of nuclear energy, there is a considerable responsibility for Urenco to maintain a level of production that will continue to service the industry. It is therefore critical that Urenco limit vulnerabilities in their processes at the plant to ensure steady production within a protected environment.

Uranium enrichment is a highly technical, scientific industry which uses world-leading centrifuge technology but, like all manufacturing businesses with such a long, successful history, they need to replace and update elements of their infrastructure to keep their operations running smoothly.

The problem that was outlined by URENCO engineer Ian Millington was that the network infrastructure supporting their manufacturing process was starting to have reliability issues. With failures on the increase it was clear that the obsolete network now had to be brought up to date.

This paper considers the challenges that relate, primarily, to the passive infrastructure where technology obsolescence, combined with 30+ years of organic changes in building usage, have resulted in a cluttered and hard to manage installation. The active network challenges are discussed in a second paper “URENCO active network design and live migration case study”.

An initial ‘restricted access’ survey identified a number of physical issues that would challenge any new network installation or upgrade, these included:

  • Space and restricted access around operational plant
  • Cable routing, labelling and certification records
  • Operational status of backup paths

  • Location

    Before full consideration of the active network topology and feature / product selection could be accomplished, it was clear major decisions on how the physical infrastructure would need to evolve had to be made. A meeting of minds between IT4A’s Consultant and the site Project team came up with a solution that would ultimately simplify the entire installation. A disused storage, area no more than 20m from the existing plant cabinets, would become the new network hub. Plant fibre optic cables would be extended from legacy panels to three new purpose built racks. Once migration was complete the legacy racks would then become passive patch panels able to be secured.

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