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Robots on the rise and heading for Cumbria

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A range of innovative robotic systems will be on display at an event in Cumbria next month as an £8.5 million competition moves to the next stage.

The showcase event, at Energus in Workington on 12 November, will feature the 5 projects that have been under way for 2 years as part of the Integrated Innovation in Nuclear Decommissioning competition, which is aimed at finding new ways to tackle some of Sellafield’s toughest radioactive challenges.

The initiative is funded jointly by the NDA, government agency Innovate UK and BEIS, while Sellafield is providing facilities for potentially demonstrating up to two of the integrated solutions. These solutions may be deployed to help decommission the site’s reprocessing plants, where radioactivity levels are so high that new ways to carry out the work remotely will be needed.

Combining robotics with virtual reality, 3D imaging, autonomous navigation and more, the new scaleable and transferable solutions will be required to access spaces that have been sealed for years. Once inside, they will need to characterise the challenge, including measuring and visualising the radioactivity, before cutting up the contents (including large vessels and many miles of pipework), segregating waste, then removing it for treatment and safe storage.

One of the key challenges has been to develop a smooth interaction between all the different component parts to achieve an integrated approach.

NDA Technology and Innovation Director Melanie Brownridge said:

Whilst this competition focusses on deployment at Sellafield, we’re really keen that other potential end-users can come and see the progress and understand how it could help them too.

All projects are led by private-sector consortia and include large corporations, academic institutions and small businesses, some of which are new to the nuclear sector. Demonstrations in a non-radioactive environment have already taken place.

Anyone interested in attending the event can register here.

Melanie said:

We’re really excited to have reached this stage, and it’s been fascinating to see how the projects have developed since they were first conceived in 2017.

There has been some fantastic innovation, and we’ve been really pleased to see the collaborative spirit in action and to welcome newcomers to the nuclear sector.

This event is an opportunity to see more of each project and understand what we’ve been seeking to achieve.

She added that the winner or winners will be announced shortly after the event.

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