Radiation Protection Today - Winter 2022 Issue 4 - Page 8

Mobile Robotics in Nuclear

Rosie Richardson is responsible for commercial product and service development at Createc , a leading SME in radiation measurement and robotics which has been at the forefront of cutting-edge robotics deployments at nuclear sites across the world over the last 10 years .
The nuclear industry worldwide has consistently recognised the value in using robotics . With the potential to remove workers from harmful radiation exposures , collect more accurate , repeatable data and provide improved operations in rarely or never accessed environments , robotics has long since been hailed as a solution to many of the challenges faced in this industry . However , the barriers to adoption , in terms of time , cost , knowledge and regulation have been vast . Until recent years , robotics projects have typically been lengthy and expensive builds of one-off and single purpose systems , often only a justifiable solution to tackle challenges in the most extreme environments .
In recent years , we have seen a rapid change in the attitude to robotics – a move from oneoff deployments towards the automation of routine operations . It ’ s a solution which makes sense . Remote and automated execution of simple tasks at nuclear sites can significantly reduce cumulative dose uptake and reduce the time workers spend doing repetitive and often mundane tasks . At the same time , a perfect storm of covid-19 and an ageing workforce in the nuclear industry is driving further resource limitations for nuclear sites across the world , exacerbating the need for scalable solutions . Significant advancements in the capabilities of mobile robots to use environments designed for humans , such as being able to open doors , climb stairs and work autonomously , mean that we ’ re seeing the costs to deploy going
down , and mobile robotic solutions are quickly making the move from testing to realworld deployment .
Over the last two years , Createc has been working to identify use cases which can be enabled by ground robots ( both wheeled and four-legged ) at nuclear facilities globally . In 2021 , the company began a series of deployments of the Boston Dynamics
® quadrupedal robot , Spot , in a facility at Sellafield . This project , in partnership with Sellafield Ltd and RACE ( Remote Applications in Challenging Environments ) which is part of the UK Atomic Energy Authority ( UKAEA ), was the first ever deployment of a quadruped at a UK facility . The robot was dressed in a specially designed contamination suit to protect it , and real time data were collected and sent back to the operator wirelessly . The prototype protective suit proved successful , and the robot was recovered without any contamination or damage , effectively proving that safe mobile robotic operations at nuclear sites are possible and can mirror human operations in terms of contamination control .
Spot robot in specially-designed
contamination suit
Createc has since gone on to deploy the quadruped and other wheeled mobile robotics across nuclear sites globally . Using many different combinations of robots , sensors and payloads , the company can perform and automate different tasks – from automating operator rounds ( reading gauges , checking valve positions , confirming safety systems in place ), laser scanning for immediate site map updates , to fully integrated radiometric sensing and dose mapping for radiation protection .
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