What value is there in a Mock-up to support Decommissioning? Part 2

In this 7 part series, guest author David Loughborough delves into the topic of mock-ups and their role in decommissioning today.

In the Early Days …

In days gone by, when the focus was on the race for ‘cheap’ nuclear energy the concept of mock-ups was virtually non-existent. Design processes unfolded typically in large open plan rooms. Picture rooms housing approximately  200 boards, each board positioned at a 45-degree angle, arranged in a row with mirrored boards on the other side. Between these rows there was a  narrow gap before another double row, stretching almost as far as you could see.  The designers, like meerkats, would lean over their boards, occasionally pause, and stand up straight, survey the surroundings and then bend back down.

To the right of these meticulously arranged rows of drawing boards, you’d see  a parallel line of desks occupied by engineers and checkers intently reviewing the designs. Further  to their right, you’d find in separate offices the Chief Engineer, managers, and specialist experts who would preside over activities.

In an era before the prevalence of digital tools, calculations were painstakingly performed by hand, often using the log scale method. The GA, or General Arrangement drawing was key, sitting on the lead draughtsman’s board, subject to constant scrutiny  and updates. 

While there were no mock-ups there was always a scale model representing the facility, reactor or plant.  Model making held a prominent role as an industry in itself, complete with its dedicated office and a significant place within the organisational structure. These models not only served as impressive showcases for visitors but also played a crucial role in the design process. –The scaled down replicas were used to check for conflicts in all aspects of the design, whether it was verifying pipe runs, identifying optimal maintenance points, to identifying entire walls being out of position. These models were not a mock-up but certainly essential in the design process.

There was little point in building a mock-up when you had a model and a comprehensive period of inactive testing, however that was not always the case.


With nearly 40 years of experience in the nuclear industry, David Loughborough has made significant contributions to various aspects of the field. His journey began in 1985 as a graduate at AERE Harwell, following an apprenticeship and earning a degree. In the 1980s, he worked on the circular filter development program, and during this time, he built his first mock-up of an MOD facility to demonstrate an accident scenario safety feature.

Throughout the 1990s, David managed projects at Harwell, Amersham International, and AWE. His expertise expanded to include leading teams at Dounreay, focusing on design, reactor maintenance, and decommissioning. He then went on to work for renowned organisations such as Jacobs, AREVA (now ORANO), and Veolia, where he served as the Managing Director of VNS UK, the UK Nuclear arm of Veolia.

David's contributions extend beyond his project management roles. He has actively participated in British and European standards committees for nuclear ventilation and filtration. He has also published papers on his decommissioning projects and has shared insights on training and developing project managers. In recognition of his exceptional work, he was awarded the APM's PM of the Year in 1995.

Most recently, David has developed a comprehensive training program aimed at supporting non-nuclear engineers, designers, and project managers as they transition into the nuclear industry. This program provides a thorough introduction to the nuclear industry's history and current practices, equipping professionals with the knowledge and skills required to excel in their roles.