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How AI And Robotics Is Used In Nuclear Research

Modern nuclear power plants would be impossible to operate without the assistance of robotics.

By opening four ‘Hot Robotics’ facilities, the University of Bristol is leading a drive to make cutting-edge robotics, drones, and nuclear research testing places available to the public. The national nuclear user facility for hot robots (NNUF-HR) aims to make robotics and facilities accessible to researchers from academia and industry to promote ground-breaking, transformative nuclear research.

Similarly, the University of Birmingham has obtained £42 million in funding to establish the National Centre for Nuclear Robotics (NCNR). The NCNR will lead the cooperation of eight universities in addressing the major challenge of properly cleaning up nuclear waste.

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Qualities in AI and Robotics 

Radiation, storage medium, a lack of utilities, restricted access, and unstructured surroundings are all significant dangers linked with the nuclear sector. These dangers imply that certain problems are currently intractable in the absence of remedies based on future robotics and artificial intelligence capabilities (RAI). Not only are reliable robotic systems necessary for future nuclear industry operations, but they also can alter the industry globally. For example, robotic systems will be necessary to examine and assess the integrity and condition of equipment and facilities. In addition, to perform emergency repairs in difficult-to-reach regions of the plant and assist in extending the life of existing nuclear power plants.

Robotics in the Nuclear Power Industry

Nuclear environments have seen the use of several robotic systems. The following table lists the robotic technology being applied in the nuclear power industry.

Robot AssignmentModelManufacturer
ReconnaissanceSMERT-MManufacturing Science and Technology Center (MSTC), Toshiba Japan
ReconnaissancePMORPHHitachi, Institute for Research, Innovation and Development (IRID) (Japan)
ReconnaissanceMini Mola Mola (underwater reconnaissance)Toshiba, IRID (Japan)
ReconnaissanceRESQ-AJapan Atomic Energy Research Institute (JAERI/JAEA), Hitachi (Japan)
ReconnaissanceMRK-46MBauman Moscow State Technical University (Russia)
Dismantling and decontaminationBrokk 300, Brokk 800SDHolmhed Systems AG (Sweden) 
Dismantling and decontaminationSuper-GiraffeMitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), IRID (Japan)
Dismantling and decontaminationDX-140Husqvarna (Sweden)
Dismantling and decontaminationSAMM ARM (underwater operation)Cybernetix (France)
Dismantling and decontaminationFalcon (underwater operation)Saab Seaeye (Sweden)
Maintenance and repair of equipment for nuclear power facilitiesPelican (extraction of foreign particles from fuel assemblies)Framatome (France)
Maintenance and repair of equipment for nuclear power facilitiesSupreem, Rosa and PegasysWestinghouse (USA)
Maintenance and repair of equipment for nuclear power facilitiesForerunnerCroatian Institute of Nuclear Technology (Croatia)

Table Source: Robots in the nuclear power industry

The Robotics Gap in Nuclear Research

Addressing the gap between robotic research and development in other industries and deployment in the nuclear business can be viewed as a complex process driven by various variables. Therefore, when evaluating a tough environment for robots, it can appear that the description should apply not only to the operating conditions but also to the development phase, especially when it comes to nuclear sector innovations. 

The Fenswood facility at the University of Bristol provides ample space for developing mobile robotic applications as upgraded tools for environmental field surveying. Its primary capabilities revolve around crewless aerial vehicles and mobile ground vehicles, and it features 245 acres of trial space for drone and ground robot deployments. 

Conclusion

To summarise, there is a systematic accumulation of expertise in the nuclear power business with robotics that enables monitoring nuclear facilities, performing radiation surveys, and dismantling structures and equipment in environments with a high radiation background. Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (RAI) are expected to play a significant role. Robotics and artificial intelligence for nuclear (RAIN) will advance modular, reusable robotics to attain cost and efficiency improvements of more than 20% in decommissioning and zero-human entry into nuclear facilities.

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Dr. Nivash Jeevanandam
Nivash holds a doctorate in information technology and has been a research associate at a university and a development engineer in the IT industry. Data science and machine learning excite him.

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