New nuclear robotics hub opens in Cumbria

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The first of a network of robotics and AI hubs to be established across the UK has opened its doors to stakeholders this week.

The Whitehaven facility, known as RAICo1, will ultimately be used by Sellafield Ltd, supply chain partners and academia to develop the technology needed to decommission Sellafield and other sites like it.

Designed to offer the ability to test technology in environments that mirror those on the Sellafield site, such as gloveboxes and water tanks, the facility aims to removes some of the challenges associated with working on the nuclear site.

Head of robotics and artificial intelligence at Sellafield Ltd, Rav Chunilal, said: “A big factor is where RAICo1 is situated, in Whitehaven itself, at the heart of our community. We see it bringing in skilled people, but we also see it as being fundamental to developing skills in the area too.”

Sellafield’s Rebecca Weston said the facility will help to develop technology that ensures the UK’s nuclear decommissioning challenge is completed in a safer, faster and cheaper way 

RAICo1 is a joint initiative developed by Sellafield Ltd and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) in collaboration with the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), Manchester University and the National Nuclear Laboratory.

Rob Buckingham, director of remote applications in challenging environments, UKAEA’s robotics facility, added: “UKAEA and NDA need remotely operated tools that are efficient, reliable, cost-effective and re-usable.

“The next generation of robotics and smart machines will deliver our mission faster, cheaper and at lower risk. Learning together, in collaboration to avoid duplication, has to be the best way.”

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