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Tuesday, 07 July 2015

NASA’s robot arm helping with clean up at Sellafield nuclear plant

It may look like the stuff of science fiction but this robotic arm is making a very real contribution to nuclear decommissioning at Sellafield.

Sellafield robot arm photo
A robotic arm, using technology developed by NASA, has been working in a high radiation area at Sellafield

The mechanical arm which uses software originally developed by American space agency NASA has been used to safely remove a “significant hazard” from an old and deteriorating part of the site.

The technology has allowed work to be carried out in a high radiation area – the First Generations Magnox Storage Pond (FGMSP) – which dates from the 1950s when safety measures were less stringent than they are today.

The remote-controlled robotic arm was used to remove pipe work and to clean and seal a contaminated wall. Workers who operated the arm practised the job in a mock-up rig before going in for real.

Paul Farran, head of projects, FGMSP, said: “The operation demanded surgical precision. The completion of this vital piece of work helps us to get on with the job of retrieving nuclear wastes from the pond.

“We’ve worked with specialist contractors SA Robotics to develop a robot that could work in a high radiation area, where obviously we couldn’t send out workforce.

“In addition new resins and foams had to be developed to seal the pond wall and to coat and isolate the pipe work.”

The completion of the work will eventually allow Sellafield Ltd to empty the pond and decommission the building.


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