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Friday, March 25, 2011

Robots in Nuclear Decommissioning

Credit: NDA - Brokk 40
According to a OECD report from the Nuclear Energy Agency, (NEA) Co-operative Programme on Decommissioning (CPD), 2006, the the use of industrial robots may have a limited application in decommissioning, in contrary to earlier expectations that robotic methods would be extensively used in the dismantling of radioactive components, especially in the high radiation areas in fuel facilities. Experience showed that industrial robots may have a limited applicability in decommissioning, especially due to the non-repetitive tasks that have to be performed in the unstructured and continuously changing environment that characterizes decommissioning work. More emphasis is therefore put in the optimization of proven, commonly available industrial techniques.
Instead of concentrating on totally remote/robotic methods, the approach seems to be developing to use long handled tools with shielding or to create a less hostile environment by identifying and removing the high sources of radiation as early as possible.
The reports refers to three projects with robot manipulators that proved to be expensive to build, as well as complicated and expensive to maintain and service. Successful use is reported by the British Nuclear Fuels plc ( BNFL) Sellafield B204 Primary Separation Plant for the removal of stainless steel hulls from a storage silo using a remotely operated loading vehicle.
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The mission of the NEA is to assist its member countries in maintaining and further developing, through international co-operation, the scientific, technological and legal bases required for the safe, environmentally friendly and economical use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. To achieve this, the NEA works as a forum for sharing information and experience and promoting international co-operation; a centre of excellence which helps member countries to pool and maintain their technical expertise and a vehicle for facilitating policy analyses and developing consensus based on its technical work.

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