Technology

The robot with machine vision is able to quickly neutralize nuclear reactors

Over time, nuclear power plantsbecome unusable, and approximately 60 years after launch, their power units require decommissioning. Currently, about 138 nuclear power units are in different stages of dismantling in the world, and this long, responsible and expensive work in hazardous conditions is mainly performed with the help of remote robots. They have their drawbacks, but engineers from Lancaster University have eliminated one of them with the help of a semi-automatic control system.

One of the major drawbacks of robots for outputtingnuclear power plants out of service is the high complexity of management. In order not to expose themselves to radiation exposure, the staff is forced to manipulate the hands of the robot at a distance of at least 100 meters, focusing on data from the built-in cameras. Joysticks are usually used for control, and in order to learn how to make precise movements with the mechanism, operators are required to be extremely skilled.

Robot taught to neutralize nuclear power plants

A robot created at a research universityThe city of Lancaster is much easier to manage, since most of the actions are done on their own. Since working with radioactive substances requires maximum accuracy, the developers deliberately did not make it completely autonomous - the person is still responsible for the quality of dismantling, but in this case he does not need to control every movement of the robot.

The design of the new robot includes hydraulicweapons, mechanical arms, a camera with object recognition and a Microsoft Kinect motion sensor. Thanks to this set, the robot can cut the pipes on its own - it is enough for a person to click on the object on the display that the robot should do.

Using the only one installed on the robotcamera, our system focuses on a common task in harsh environments. It allows an operator to instruct a robotic arm to grab and cut pipes with as few as four mouse clicks, ”explained James Taylor, professor of engineering at Lancaster University.

The semi-autonomous system was tested inlab conditions — the employees who used it coped with cutting pipes much faster than their counterparts with fully controlled robots. According to the engineers, at the moment the system needs sound and temperature sensors so that the control staff is more aware of the conditions surrounding the robot. For a visual demonstration of various indicators, the developers plan to create a whole graphical interface.

How do robots help neutralize nuclear reactors?

Great contribution to the neutralization of nuclear reactorsrobots made in 2011, after the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant-1. The cause of the catastrophe was a strong earthquake and the tsunami that followed it - they destroyed the means of power supply for diesel generators. Subsequently, the reactor cores melted, and explosions occurred in three units. The accident claimed the lives of three people, two of whom drowned in the basement, and one died of cancer caused by strong radiation.

For reconnaissance of the radioactive territory werePackBot robots were used, which in a few hours managed to inspect all three blocks. They successfully measured the level of exposure, the temperature and humidity of the emergency zone, and transmitted everything that happened to the screen of the researchers (in the video below). During subsequent explorations, robots encountered debris obstructions, so in 2016 a robot was developed to eliminate blockages.

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One of the worst disasters of modern history has fundamentally changed Japanese robotics. How it affected such a huge industry can be read in our special material.

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