Sellafield trials Spot for nuclear decommissioning tasks

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United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA) robotics team has been working at Sellafield, Cumbria to advise and support on how four-legged robots could help the clean-up of the nuclear site.

Sellafield Ltd held a three-day trial of Spot, the agile mobile robot developed by Boston Dynamics, at the Calder Hall nuclear power station, which is now being decommissioned.

According to UKAEA, the building offers challenging terrain in a risk-managed environment, providing ideal conditions to test Spot’s agility, scanning and radiation detection capabilities.

If successful, Spot could be deployed at locations across the Sellafield site to carry out routine tasks like inspections, mapping, data capture and characterisation. The four-legged robot is designed to perform autonomous missions and can be controlled remotely via an operator, which improves safety by allowing the robot to enter hazardous, contaminated areas in lieu of a person.

Spot is also expected to speed up inspection times, as robots do not require as much personal protective equipment, and help save money by ensuring more frequent data collection and better predictive maintenance.

Guy Burroughes, from the remote applications in challenging environments centre at UKAEA’s Culham site, said: “We’ve been using Spot for over a year in our work to develop robotics for challenging environments like nuclear facilities. We were delighted to bring this experience to support the trials at Sellafield and hope it can lead to safer, more efficient decommissioning.”

The demonstration of the Spot unit was held in conjunction with Cumbria-based engineering consultant Createc and UKAEA. If the trial phase proves successful, Createc would be Boston’s Dynamics’ preferred UK partner for Spot operations at Sellafield and UKAEA would continue its role of providing expertise on robotics deployments in nuclear environments.

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