The robot navigates the cell of the Dounreay evaporator: waste and recycling

September 05, 2023

Spot, a four-legged robot, has completed its experiment at the Dounreay site in Scotland, UK, successfully navigating an evaporator cell in a fuel cycle area that has been closed for 25 years.

Spot in Dounreay (Photo: Dounreay)

Described as a “mobile agile robot” and developed by Boston Dynamics, Spot – has to navigate dark conditions and several flights of stairs to complete this final challenge.

At Dounreay its mission was twofold. to map the four-story cell, and to collect critical radiological data for the team to use when planning to decommission the facility; and gain useful experience on how to use the robot and survey equipment.

On-site carpenters built a wooden mock-up of the evaporator cell entrance and temporary containment in a clean area to test the robot’s capabilities and train the operators who will support Spot, before work moves on to the evaporator cell.

The robot, dressed in its protective suit, collected data once it entered the evaporator cell to give the team a full 3D map of the area. It also collected radiological data to create a complete dosimetric map showing areas of high radioactivity, which will enable the team to develop a radioactive fingerprint.

“By doing the initial groundwork, Spot has shown us the risks that could affect workers assigned to the decommissioning,” said Bernie Jones, Donnery Project Manager. “We will use the data to make sure we mitigate those risks and keep our people safe. This work also has the potential to save money in our shutdown investigation.”

“Over the course of five days, we deployed two Spots at multiple entrances to the cell,” said Will Newsom, managing director of energy at Createc Ltd, Spot’s systems integrator. “The environment we were exploring was complex because it hadn’t been accessed in over 20 years, so the team didn’t know what to expect: that made deployment very difficult.

“Using the innovative NV-Explore sensor, the team captured 3D radiation maps. At the same time, a single Spot was used with a robotic arm to take several physical samples for analysis in the laboratory.”

“I’m really proud that Dounreay is pushing the boundaries of what current technologies can do, unlocking innovative pathways for the future that will keep our people safer and improve our cleaning effectiveness,” added Mark Ross, General Manager, Dounreay. this site.”

In June, Dounreay Site Restoration Limited and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority announced a partnership with Createc to launch a twelve-month innovative program of work, comprising seven different automated remote sensing projects, across five different Dounreay teams. The projects, which include use cases related to security, planning, environment, and safety, involve Spot deployment.

Over the course of twelve months, Dounreay will systematically validate the suitability of several different types of sensors, together with Spot, to support the digitization of existing on-site operations. The use cases will demonstrate the value of multitasking to nuclear sites, and their ability to carry out the hands-on work of multiple teams.

Dunnery was the UK’s center for research and development of experimental fast breeders from 1954 until 1994.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

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