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Robots In Radioactive Environments

Robots In Radioactive Environments

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Published by: Mohimina Jawariyah on Apr 16, 2011
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Robots In Radioactive Environments

Seminar 2011


Robots are developed to be used in areas inaccessible to human beings. Radio active environment is one in which high energy radiations like α, β and γ radiations are emitted by radioactive materials. There is a limitation in case of the time and dose for which professional worker can be exposed to nuclear radiations according to international regulations so it very useful to use robots in such an environment. Robots with properly automated can also be used to control nuclear power plants and hence can be used to avert nuclear power plant disasters like one that occurred at Chernobyl. Robots can also be used for the disposal of radioactive waste. Future is still bright for robots in radio active environment as they are to be used to isolate nuclear power plants from surroundings in case of a nuclear power plant disaster.

Department of mechanical engineering



Robots In Radioactive Environments

Seminar 2011


The word robot was introduced in 1921 by the Czech play Wright Karel Capek, in his play Rossum’s universal robots and is derived from the Czech word “Robota”, meaning “forced labour”. The story concerns a brilliant scientist named ‘ROSSUM’ and his son, who developed a chemical substance similar to protoplasm to manufacture robots. Their plan was that the robots would serve the mankind obediently and do all physical labour. Finally, after improvements and eliminating unnecessary parts, they develop a “perfect robot”, which eventually goes out of control and attacks humans. Although Capek introduced the word robot to the world, the term robotics was coined by Isaac Asimov in his science fiction story “run around”, where he portrayed robots not in negative manner but built with safety measures in mind to assist human beings. Asimov established in his story three fundamental laws of robots as follows: 1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. 2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the first law. 3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first and second laws. . Robots were introduced into the industry in the early 1960’s. Robots originally were in hazardous operations, such as handling toxics and radioactive materials and loading & unloading hot work pieces from furnaces and handling them in foundries.

Department of mechanical engineering



a yaw. The individual joint motions are referred to as degrees of freedom. The manipulator.side motion.and. Its primary function is to provide the specific motions that will unable the tooling at the end of the arm to do the required work. gears. The points that a manipulator bends.1 Manipulator The manipulator is a mechanical unit that provides motion similar to that of a human arm. therefore. Typically. actuators and feedback drives. industrial robots are equipped with 4 to 6 degrees of freedom.Robots In Radioactive Environments Seminar 2011 CHAPTER 3 BASIC COMPONENTS OF A ROBOT The basic components of any complex industrial robot are as follows: 3. Fig 3-1: Manipulator Department of mechanical engineering 3 BTLIT . such as linkages. or side. or rotating motion.to. The wrist can reach a point in space with specific orientation by any of the three motions: a pitch or up. slides or rotates are called joints or position axes.down motion. Manipulation is carried out using mechanical devices. and a roll. is apart of the robot that physically performs the work.

then it is called process tooling. Department of mechanical engineering 4 BTLIT . Power tools. depth gauges and adhesive fingers for material handling. hydraulic and pneumatic. terminates and coordinates the motion and sequences of a robot. electromagnets. nut drivers and burrs. Special devices and fixtures for machining and assembly. 3. It accepts the necessary inputs to the robots and provides the output drive signals to a controlling motor or actuator to correspond with the robot movements and outside world.Robots In Radioactive Environments Seminar 2011 3. scoops. Depending on the type of operations. Robot tooling is referred to as end of arm tooling (EOAT) is commonly used both by industry and in publications. The second most common is pneumatic and the least common is hydraulic. If the end effecter is a device that is mechanically opened and closed. such as drills. hooks. vacuum cups and Spray gun for painting.      the like. Electricity is the most common source of power and is used extensively with industrial robots. 3.2 End Effecter A robot can become a production machine only if a tool or device has been attached to its mechanical arm by means of the tool mounting plate. then it is called a gripper. The three basic types of power supplies are electric. conventional end effectors are equipped with various devices and tool attachments as follows:  Grippers.3 Power Supply The function of the power supply is to provide and regulate the energy that is required for a robot to be operated. If the end effecter is a tool or a special attachment. Attachments for spot and arc welding and arc cutting. Measuring instruments such as dial indicators.4 Controller The controller is a communication and information processing device that initiates.

The input and output section of a control system must provide a communication interface between the robot controller computer and the following parts:       Feed back sensors Production sensors Production machine tools Teaching devices Program storage devices Other computer device hardware Fig 3-2: Block Diagram of a Controller CHAPTER 4 Department of mechanical engineering 5 BTLIT .Robots In Radioactive Environments Seminar 2011 Controllers vary greatly in complexity and design. the computer includes a network of microprocessors. They have a great deal to do with functional capabilities of a robot and therefore. the complexity of the tasks that robots must be able to fulfil. In many robot controllers. The heart of the controller is the computer and its solid state memory.

Some regular repair and maintenance activities at nuclear power plants involve risks of contamination and irradiation.Robots In Radioactive Environments Seminar 2011 NEED FOR ROBOTS IN RADIOACTIVE ENVIRONMENT Radioactive environment is mainly encountered in nuclear power plants. This increase the cost of maintenance services because personal only operate for short periods of time. The number of hours that they can work continuously is limited by national international regulations regarding the maximum dose that may be received by exposed professional workers. For all the above reasons. the worker cannot work in areas subject to radiation for a given period of time. Most tasks at nuclear facilities are carried out by in house maintenance specialists. to use telerobotics for the execution of repair and maintenance tasks in nuclear power plants. nuclear service companies are obliged to allow for some uncertainties in scheduling of services and in rationalization of their human resources. Legal regulations establish that when a worker reaches a specific dose limit. require several yeas of experience and extensive training programs. They are few in number and in many cases. This is particularly true of tasks entailing high exposure to radiation. Various countries have laws establishing annual maximum doses to which professional workers can be exposed and the maximum time that they may stay inside areas subject to radiation. CHAPTER 5 Department of mechanical engineering 6 BTLIT . irradiation is continuous and effects the operators work areas. it is generally advisable and in some cases mandatory. Given the discontinuous use of human resources and discontinuous nature of work. While contamination is an accidental and avoidable phenomenon.

2. Foreign fallen object removal. Others Internal pipe inspection and object removal. Lower internal inspection. Fuel transfer channel cleaning. Extraction and welding of the pressurized heaters. Reactor head vessel Surface decontamination. Steam generator  Primary tube inspection and maintenance.Robots In Radioactive Environments Seminar 2011 TYPICAL NUCLEAR TELEROBOTIC APPLICATIONS IN PRESSURISED LIGHT WATER (PWR) REACTORS These are some of the typical surveillance and maintenance operations in pwr units where telerobotic systems can be applied. Fuel transfer channel and underwater inspection. Surface decontamination of general floor areas. Underwater inspection of equipment and spent fuel pools. 1. 4. Underwater cleaning of various plant tanks and vessels.  Nozzle dam insertion. Reactor cavity Floor and wall area decontamination. Reactor vessel Underwater inspection and repair. Department of mechanical engineering 7 BTLIT .  Channel head cleaning and decontamination. 5.  Sludge lancing  Secondary side foreign object removal. 3.  Foreign object removal in the primary circuit. Head inspection.

1. Diagnostic tests are therefore necessary to identify points of degradation along the SG tubes and define repair procedures for damaged tubes. The tubes in steam generators are subject to multiple stresses. thus lessens the risk of contamination of human workers. The arm is equipped with a remote quick connector (RQC) to facilitate the assembly and disassembly of such tools. The SG maintenance jobs. nozzle dam insertion. eddy-current inspection. which are carried out during plant refuelling outages. The system has proven its robustness and flexibility for a wide range of maintenance operations inside the SG channel head of PWR SGS. The system provides a remote user interface for controlling the joint six axis arm. such as mechanical and thermal loading. So a telerobotic system known as remotely operated service arm is used to the use of jumpers that work inside the SG channel head. Remotely operated service arm (ROSA) Radioactive environment in which robots work is actually seen in nuclear power plants. Fig 6-1(a): ROSA Department of mechanical engineering 8 BTLIT .Robots In Radioactive Environments Seminar 2011 CHAPTER 6 ROBOTS USED IN NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS 6. involve complex tasks (water cleaning. vibrations and various types of corrosion. The frequency of inspection and the number of inspected tubes increases with the aging of the plant. mechanical plugging and unplugging etc) inside an environment made hazardous by high radiation and contamination.

but because it has happened in past and entails high exposure to radiations for workers. so the accumulated doses are very high. The inspection and retrieving vehicle system is a teleoperated vehicle provided with sensors. The CRV is a teleoperated vehicle that works underwater. cameras and interchangeable end-effectors that allow these operations to be carried out from safe place. located at the lowest level close to the transfer channel. it is necessary to develop special tools to remove fallen objects. CLEANING AND RETRIEVING VEHICLE (CRV) An amount of radioactive waste gathers as a result of the refuelling operation. 6. When this happens. objects may accidentally fall inside the primary circuit nozzle.2. Department of mechanical engineering 9 BTLIT . This is not particularly frequent incident. is one of the hot points where workers are generally exposed to moderate but occasionally very high levels of radiation. It is equipped with a rotating brush to pick up the dirt and a pump to remove it to an external shielded filter. lights.3. These tools are often handled by jumpers from the channel head nozzle. This pit. INSPECTION AND RETRIEVING VEHICLE (IRV) During maintenance operations inside the SG channel heads. transfer of fuel elements and general cleaning of the pool.Robots In Radioactive Environments Seminar 2011 Fig 6-1(b): ROSA ARM 6. nuclear plants demand that contingency procedures may be put in place. The design of cleaning and retrieving vehicle telerobotics system is based on the IRV.

Fig 6-2(a): TRON Department of mechanical engineering BTLIT 10 . The end-effector and the inspection cameras are attached to the end link.4. The teleoperated and robotized system for maintenance operation in nuclear power plant vessels is a four jointed robotized pole used to retrieve fallen objects from the PWR reactor vessel.Robots In Radioactive Environments Seminar 2011 6. The whole system comprises a jointed pole. TRON During refuelling operation. it can inspect the lower internal zone and recover objects without the core having to be disassembled. end-effectors and a computer vision navigation system that helps the operator to move through a highly complex environment. More complex mechanism cannot be used because of the small size of the flow holes. parts of tools or other objects can fall into the vessel because of human error or other circumstances. In this way. The pole is inserted through the holes in the lower core plate.

Throughout the process. so that future disasters can be avoided. import  Realistic force feedback  Effortlessly handles loads of up to 100 kg  All purpose manipulator designed to be used with standard tools: grinders. drills. 6.6. The answer may be robotic animals that can venture to hard to reach places that are inaccessible to people. Master arms operated by the user transfers exact motions kinematically to the slave manipulator. Department of mechanical engineering BTLIT 11 . SNAKE-LIKE ROBOTS When disasters like nuclear power plant explosions occur. screwdrivers.Robots In Radioactive Environments Seminar 2011 Fig 6-2(b): TRON 6. ELECTRIC MASTER SLAVE MANIPULATOR The EMSM range of Electrical Master Slave Manipulators has been developed for use in high dose environments where intricate and/or heavy duty work is carried out. the user is given a realistic feeling of forces and moment as. power plant personnel are often faced with a problem: how to find the reasons for nuclear power plant explosions.5.

they looked to the animal world for a clue. Department of mechanical engineering BTLIT 12 . At North Carolina State University.Robots In Radioactive Environments Seminar 2011 Fig 6-3(a): SNAKE LIKE ROBOTS Fig 6-3(b): MAKING OF SNAKE LIKE ROBOTS Mother Nature as Muse Robotic researchers are looking more and more to mimic nature for the shapes and functions of their mechanical creations. when students were challenged to come up with a robot that could crawl through pipes.

The use of pneumatics for movement is an important factor because sometimes there are explosive gases present in nuclear power plants that have exploded. Researchers at NASA’s Ames Research Center are currently developing robots that resemble snakes to be used on the unknown terrain of other worlds. The Serpentine Robotics Project is Department of mechanical engineering BTLIT 13 . plus they can fit into tight spaces and move over large objects. What Else Could It Do? Robots like MOCASIN II could eventually have other uses. It allows the robots to be flexible and adaptable. A tiny video camera and lights allow rescuers to see where MOCASIN II is located. or even "hear" voices and perhaps breathing. The senior design students created robots called MOCASIN I and MOCASIN II (Modular Observation Crawler And Sensing Instrument) that can crawl through six-inch piping How Does It Work? MOCASIN II is a segmented robot that looks somewhat like an inchworm. when he spoke with a major in the Marine Corps who had been called out to the Oklahoma City bombing. contracting and expanding its "body" in the process. It uses pneumatics (air pressure) to force padded "feet" against the pipe walls. or to detect cracks in sewer or water lines. They could be used for repairs in dangerous areas. Grant realized that a robot that could navigate pipes would be ideal in this situation because pipes generally stay intact when the rest of a structure has collapsed. The robot is designed so that it breaks down into components that can be easily transported to remote sites. director of the Center for Robotic and Intelligent Machines and a visiting professor at NC State. the robot uses compressed air. which also allows it to run off of air tanks when no electricity is available. They could be even used in other planets. such as nuclear power plant pipes. They could used to rescue people from rubbles after massive earthquakes. The snake-like design has several advantages.Robots In Radioactive Environments Seminar 2011 The idea came to Eddie Grant. The robot can also be equipped with sensors that could pick up vibrations from someone tapping on the pipes. Since electricity might ignite the gases. as well.

The industrial environment is significantly different from office environments in which most other mobile robots operate. Examples include inspection for spills. the University of Toronto. leaks.leading to increased safety by reducing the potential radioactive dose to workers. and the National Research Council of Canada. AUTONOMOUS ROBOT FOR KNOWN ENVIRONMENT (ARK) The ARK (Autonomous Robot for a Known Environment) Project was a precompetitive research project involving Ontario Hydro. there are test rigs of various sizes. the cleaning up of spills.7. a metrology lab and assembly area. Ontario. There are no major barriers between these facilities and therefore at any one time there may be up to fifty people working on the lab floor. The ARK project produced a self-contained mobile robot with sensor-based navigation capabilities specifically designed for operation in a real industrial setting. The technical objective of the project was to develop a sensor-based mobile robot that could autonomously navigate in a known industrial environment. or other unusual events in large industrial facilities. has been developed. Within the Laboratory. Like the MOCASIN. a machine shop. materials handling in computer integrated manufacturing environments. York University. the robots use standard parts and electronics. The ARK robot was evaluated in the large engineering laboratory at AECL CANDU in Mississauga. or increase productivity. feet of space and accommodates one hundred and fifty employees. This open area covers approximately 50. rescuers on this planet are likely to find such robots an invaluable tool. The project started in September 1991 and completed in August 1995. Robotic snakes that even imitate the slithering movement of the real thing.000 sq. While it may be a while before snake robots are used in space. or the carrying out of repairs in the radioactive areas of nuclear plants . but in this case they really resemble snakes. 6. a fabrication facility. three fork lift trucks and floor cleaning Department of mechanical engineering BTLIT 14 . mockups of reactor components. and the carrying out of inspections..Robots In Radioactive Environments Seminar 2011 working on adding pressure and light sensors to the robots as well. Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. There are many types of industrial operations and environments for which mobile robots can be used to reduce human exposure hazards.

also highlights and glare. hoses and piping on the floor. The ARK robot must navigate through its environment autonomously and cannot rely on modifications to its environment such as the addition of radio beacons. The pan. high ceilings (50'). The robot relied on vision as its main sensor for global navigation. a large variation in light intensity. require sensors that can operate at such ranges. using a map of permanent structures in the environment (walls. In order to navigate within this environment the ARK robot used naturally occurring objects as landmarks. Positions and salient descriptions of the landmarks are known in advance and are stored Department of mechanical engineering BTLIT 15 . pillars) to plan its path. The ARK robot required sensors that can reliably detect such obstacles. many temporary and semi-permanent structures. Most mobile robotic projects assume the existence of a flat ground plane over which the robot is to navigate. but regions of the floor are marked with drainage ditches. many (some very large) metallic structures. the robot locates known landmarks in its environment. pipes and other unexpected low lying obstacles to movement. In the industrial environment this ground plane is generally flat. The head consists of a colour camera and a spot laser range finder mounted on a pan-tilt unit. The number of visual features (lines. oil and water spills on the floor. and other transient obstacles to the safe motion of the robot. camera focus and laser distance reading of the ARK robotic head are computer controlled. magnetic strips beneath the floors. often encountered in the industrial environment. chains hanging down from above. While following the planned path. protruding structures. floor drains (which could be uncovered). The ARK robot's onboard sensor system consisted of sonar’s and one or more ARK robotic heads and a floor anomaly detector (FAD). Such an environment presents many difficulties that include: the lack of vertical flat walls. or the use of visual symbols added to the existing environment. features are required. large open spaces (the main isle is 400' long) as well as small cramped spaces. people and forklifts moving about. task dependent. tilt. camera zoom. corners and regions) is very high and techniques for focusing attention on specific.Robots In Radioactive Environments Seminar 2011 machines in operation. large windows near the ceiling resulting in time dependent and weather dependent lighting conditions. Large distances.

Robots In Radioactive Environments Seminar 2011 in the map. The robot uses the measured position of the detected landmarks to update its position with respect to the map. Fig 6-4(a): HUMANOID ROBOT Fig 6-4(b): UNDERWATER AUTONOMUS ROBOT Department of mechanical engineering BTLIT 16 .

Fractal robots can limit an evolving nuclear accidents as it occurs by sealing the roof top of the building that have been blown and leaking radiation dusts.1 Characterising and Limiting Nuclear Accident A nuclear reactor that has been severely damaged is never accessible directly for servicing or repairs. Fractal robots presented here explains in detail how best to manage nuclear accidents. Penetrating intense radiation from nuclear accident can prevent any kind of repair work from being undertaken inside the building. This penetrating nature of radiation requires that all machinery be operated remotely. Department of mechanical engineering BTLIT 17 . At its simplest a fractal robot is simply a collection of computer controlled bricks that reshape on command into different structures in a matter of seconds. The concrete reactor is normally surrounded by installation specific buildings that can make access difficult after an accident. confined spaces or an undefined terrain created by explosions that simply rules out existing approaches. Fractal robots on the other hand can overcome all these difficulties systematically because it is a true multiterrain vehicle to get from anywhere to anywhere across undefined terrains. It’s like kids playing with Lego-instead we use a computer and motorised bricks and do this with total automation.Robots In Radioactive Environments Seminar 2011 CHAPTER 7 FUTURE USE OF ROBOTS IN RADIOACTIVE ENVIRONMENT Robots have to be used in handling nuclear materials because of its toxic effects on life. Access constrains make the task of clearing up catastrophic reactor failure near impossible using conventional systems. Nuclear accidents are the most difficult to deal with at present and experience has shown that humans can only run away from nuclear accidents in the face of danger just like a comical Neolithic ancestors running away in the face of fire. 7. Standard remote machinery such as robotic rovers cannot operate in high radiation environments.

The robotic cubes can be used as structural supports to support collapsing ceilings. A legged robot could become trapped in the debris and so would small robots which are of little use anyway once they reach their objectives. 7. They take with them cameras. The first priority of the robots is to negotiate the rough terrain and arrive at the accident scene. These kinds of explosions are typical of explosions that have ripped through the installations in the past. Large robots cannot enter the building and tread its way through the maze of the machinery without creating further damage. The melt cannot be cooled with normal fluids as they can be vaporised by the heat generated by radioactive molten core which will continue to generate heat for days if not weeks.2 Negotiating Undefined Terrain Using a True Multi-terrain Vehicle The fractal robots squeeze through small holes by shuffling the bricks around.3 Reactor Core Melt Down Fractal robots can handle the worst case reactor core meltdown accident. Terrain that is not a problem for the robotic cubes which can transform into foot units that allow the machine to support itself whilst negotiating hallways and corridors. The possibility of malfunction of electronic systems is avoided using lead shielding and using specialized robotic cubes that have no electronics and have the equivalent of a mechanical computer inside it built out of relays. lighting and any other special equipment integrated into the cubes and which can squeeze through the available holes. 7. Dust suction equipment and/or hoses can be installed to filter out dust and fumes. Department of mechanical engineering BTLIT 18 . The problem with such a reactor is that in the molten state it is hot and corrosive. the fractal robots can then install lighting and cameras. they can kick into action seconds after an accident even if they are damaged because they are self repairing machines.Robots In Radioactive Environments Seminar 2011 It is the chemical or pressure explosion or both that rips the dome of the reactor and destroys other parts of the installation. we can stop it. If the reactor is eating its way through the ground as happened in Chernobyl. Operators are used to shuffle the bricking position aided by computer software that calculates deformation algorithms and routes for moving cubes to cope in undefined terrain. If the installation is fitted with fractal robots. Under operator control. There is debris everywhere and terrain is generally undefined.

when new reactors are commissioned. Instead of commissioning more new installations which will then get contaminated. if much of the low activity structure is made of fractal robot compatible structures. It is not possible to simply take tons of equipment and bury it somewhere with out due attention and care to the possibilities of radioactive substances leeching into the environment over the decades. Department of mechanical engineering BTLIT 19 . De-commissioning can also be carried out using same robots. For example. This includes decommissioning work which is now estimated to run into billions of dollars per installation.4 Power Station Design of The Future Fractal robots are competitive when the full nuclear power production cycle is taken into account. the nuclear reactions are shut down. 7. This recycling minimizes creation of nuclear contaminated wastes. By amalgamating the molten lead with molten core. Whatever the coolant used. the old structures that have been de-commissioned are retrieved from storage and reused.Robots In Radioactive Environments Seminar 2011 The molten core has to cool by the equivalent of a nuclear coolant such as molten lead. With the level of automation offered by fractal robots. Fractal robots are also competitive in the disposal of radio active wastes. Fractal robots give hundred percent automation and thus there is no need for humans to go into reactor areas or contaminated areas for any reasons for this type of reactor. the old structures from the old reactors are de-installed and reused in the newer installations to acquire a higher dosage. De-commissioned robotic parts held in storage can be looked after by more fractal robots patrolling. then they can be recycled in other installations or even in the current installations in more radioactive areas as they acquire higher and higher dosages until they end up in the reactor room as reactor supports and lining. the waste site with sensors to look for leaks and leeching. actions has to be taken immediately if the molten core is not to eat its way through all the reactor building floors and seep into the ground from where it can be very difficult to extract. Fractal robots can help in a number of ways to reduce the amount of waste generated and to look after those wastes.

Thanks to the design of reference software architectures for teleoperated systems. complete automation still remains a challenge.Robots In Radioactive Environments Seminar 2011 CHAPTER 8 CONCLUSION Over the years. it has been possible to develop different applications reusing existing components. several telerobotic systems for periodic maintenance services and unforeseen interventions have been developed. But even after all these developments. Department of mechanical engineering BTLIT 20 . Most of the process that is inaccessible to human has been automated. It’s believed that complete automation would be possible with the development of fractal robots.

. Symposium. Intl. J. P. vol 45. “Preventive Maintenance and Remote Inspection of Nuclear Power Plants Using Telerobotics” IEEE 1999.A.. Navarro.. Iborra.Robots In Radioactive Environments Seminar 2011 CHAPTER 9 BIBLIOGRAPHY 1.H. A. J. McGraw-Hill 2. Pastor. Keramas James G. Alvarez. 5. Iborra.M.J. J. S. IEEE 2000. “Introduction to Robots” . 3. A. de la Puente.November 1998.. Alvarez. Alvarez B. Nuclear Engineering Int. Fernandez..A. A. Alonso. . Pastor. March 2000. J. J. S.. Mexico. Industrial Electronics.M. Department of mechanical engineering BTLIT 21 . Kim... “Developing Multi-application Remote Systems”. Kim. C.A: “Robotized System for Retrieving Fallen Objects Within the Reactor Vessel of a Nuclear Power Plant”. Iborra. Pastor.H. Brussels .A. 4.. Jung.. Fernandez.: “An Underwater Teleoperated Vehicle for Inspection and Retrieving”. A.. B. J. B...Symposium.1st Intl.

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