HEAVY-LIFTING ROBOTS AND MARS MISSION TECH TO CLEAR RADIOACTIVE ROOMS AT SELLAFIELD

Image: Digital Concepts Engineering has designed the rugged X-2 ROV for the Wood project. It can climb stairs when heavily loaded and turn on the spot (Credit: Wood Plc) Article Source: IMehcE

A navigation system designed for Mars missions and heavy-lifting robots will help clear radioactive rooms at Sellafield.

Digital Concepts Engineering has designed the rugged X-2 ROV for the Wood project. It can climb stairs when heavily loaded and turn on the spot (Credit: Wood Plc)

Wood Group will apply the technology and other innovations after securing £1.5m in government funding. The multinational and four other contractors secured the funding from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and Innovate UK after winning a competition to find new techniques to make nuclear decommissioning safer, faster and more cost-effective.

Working with its supply chain, Wood will combine new data and control systems with state-of-the-art robotics to design a demonstrator system for cleaning and dismantling highly radioactive rooms at Sellafield in Cumbria, described as “Europe’s most complex nuclear site”.

Technologies in Wood’s project include mixed-reality headsets, a multi-fingered gripper allowing robots to grasp different objects, and a navigation system designed for Mars missions, which enables autonomous mapping where human access is impossible.

“Our innovative proposal for a fully remote solution removes the operator from a hazardous environment and is adaptable enough to tackle different tasks, many of which present unique challenges,” said Bob MacDonald, CEO of Wood’s Specialist Technical Solutions business. MacDonald said that Wood’s role was to bring together “ingenious ideas” from industry and academia.

The competition response from suppliers and institutions was so promising that the government bodies increased the total amount available for projects from £3m to £8.5m, said Melanie Brownridge, NDA head of technology.

She added: “We were all incredibly excited by the quality and diversity of the submissions, which came from established nuclear organisations as well as industries working with us for the first time, such as space and defence sectors.”

Wood’s research partners are Airbus Defence and Space, Clicks and Links, Damavan Imaging SAS, Digital Concepts Engineering, IS-Instruments, I3D Robotics, the University of Lancaster, the University of Salford, Kawasaki UK and TWI.


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