The new robots will be able to enter the uranium pipes unlike anyone has done before. They are believed to be cheap and efficient and will save the department millions of dollars.
Humans have always shunned jobs that are not prestigious. No one wants to do the dirty work, and as a result, humans create something to fill the gap. Many robots and inventions have been made in most cases to do something that humans did not want to do. Drones are now being used to send bombs, parcels, and food. And now it seems there might be a solution to cleaning the sewers.
A uranium enrichment plant in Plankton, Ohio is filled up with pipes that no one can safely enter. Not only are the pipes bad for humans but they are entirely inhabitable for any living creature. And here is where the robots come in. The radioactive environment is bad for humans, but this is where the robots can shine. Robots are widely being used in radioactive situations.
Back in 2011 when the Fukushima Disaster took place, the Japanese created some robots which were able to enter the zone. The army robots, albeit small, went into the pipes and managed to survive even though it was for a few minutes. One of the robots has now managed to show pictures of the site. The photos show the nuclear debris evident in the reactor.
Therefore the Piketon facility in Ohio has also been listed to be decommissioned. The job will be done by some self-determining robots which will be created at the Carnegie Mellon University. The facility has been under the function of the Department of Energy since 2000.
The autonomous robots are being sent in with one purpose of discovering the uranium deposits on the pipe walls. This job has previously been done by humans, who have had to do it from outside of the pipes. Considering the health aspects of the job, it was something costly for the people involved.
However, with the introduction of the robots, the energy department estimates that they would be able to save tens of millions of dollars. They also estimate that they will be able to save at least $50 million at another site located in Kentucky. The site is specifically located in Paducah. The robotics professor and director of the Field Robotics Center at CMU, Professor William Whitaker said that the new tech was revolutionary. It will change how you detect uranium deposits and measure them, he said.
The robot that the companies will use to remove all the uranium deposit is called the RadPiper. The robot is expected to move through 30-inch pipes and even greater diameters in order to do its work. The robot also has on it a LiDAR, together with a camera. The fisheye camera will be able to help with the maneuvering of the robot. It will help detect and avoid obstacles as a result.
RadPiper is also equipped with radioactive measuring devices. It uses a sensing instrument that takes into effect sodium iodide to measure the gamma rays. After maneuvering through each part of the pipe, RadPiper eventually goes back to the original position.
In their partnership, the energy department paid the university close to $1.4 million in order to develop the robots. The university calls the project, the Pipe Crawling Activity Measurement System. It shows how robotics is now entering the real world, after decades of trying to penetrate. Slowly but surely, they are coming.