Robots battle in nuclear clean-up challenge

Five projects have been awarded a total of £8.5 million to develop robots that can tackle some of Sellafield’s most radioactive hotspots. The robots controlled by smart auto navigation systems […]

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By Priyanka Shrestha

Five projects have been awarded a total of £8.5 million to develop robots that can tackle some of Sellafield’s most radioactive hotspots.

The robots controlled by smart auto navigation systems made it through to the final stages from a shortlist of 15, each receiving up to £1.5 million to build prototype demonstrators for testing in a simulated radioactive environment.

After the first set to trials, potential inventions could progress to more rigorous trials in a radioactive environment.

They are part of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and Innovate UK’s search for technologies that could be combined into a single seamless process for use in facilities.

The aim is to reduce risks to workers, increase productivity, deal efficiently with waste, reduce timescales and cut overall costs to the taxpayer.

Melanie Brownridge, NDA’s Head of Technology said: “The new integrated system must establish what’s inside the cells, measure the radioactivity, access spaces that have been sealed for years, cut up the contents (including large vessels and many miles of pipework), segregate the waste, then remove it for treatment and safe storage.

“Radioactivity levels are extremely high, restricting workforce access so the work must be carried out remotely.”

Approval from nuclear regulators will be required before the systems can be deployed at nuclear sites.