UKAEA is starting construction of a new centre for the development of Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE).
Minister breaks ground for RACE
The Rt. Hon. Greg Clark MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science and Cities, visited the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA’s) Culham Science Centre on Thursday 22 January to formally mark the start of the construction phase of a brand new robotics and remote handling centre – RACE.
When fully operational by the end of 2015, the purpose-built, 3,000 square metre RACE building will conduct R&D into many applications of this technology. It will be a key centre for implementing the Government’s Robotics and Autonomous Systems strategy, announced in July, which aims to equip the UK to compete in this emerging global industry.
RACE capitalises on the remote handling systems developed at Culham for the Joint European Torus (JET) fusion project and will enable customers to apply this knowledge to their own fields. It will give access to state-of-the-art test facilities, robotic equipment and expertise to SMEs, multinationals, research laboratories and academia from areas such as space applications, deep sea exploration, fusion research and the advanced nuclear fission industry.
The RACE facility brings together a broad range of expertise from the UK Atomic Energy Authority and its partners the National Nuclear Laboratory, TWI, the National Physical Laboratory and the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.
RACE will provide support to an Assystem-led team that has secured a five-year multi-million euro contract to design, manufacture, install and commission the remote handling system for the ITER fusion device’s divertor. (The consortium includes RACE, Soil Machine Dynamics Ltd, Finland’s Technical Research Centre and the Tampere University of Technology). The divertor is a key component of the ITER machine. Located at the bottom of the vacuum vessel, it acts an exhaust system to extract waste and impurities from the fusion fuel in the vessel. The divertor remote handling systems include the equipment required to safely and reliably position as well as extract each of the 54 removable cassette modules. The system will bring together high tech robotics, advanced electro-mechanical systems, computer control and advanced virtual reality modelling.
A new centre for developing technologies for remote handling in extreme conditions has opened at the Culham Science Centre in the UK. A £15.6 million ($26.2 million) purpose-built facility is to be constructed at the site by 2016.
The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), which is leading the project, announced that the new Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE) centre is open for business. It is currently undertaking projects in an existing laboratory at the site but construction of a new facility is scheduled to start next year. RACE has already won a contract with Assystem for developing remote handling equipment for the Iter fusion reactor in Cadarache, France.
|An artist’s impression of the new RACE facility at Culham (Image: UKAEA)|
The UK government is investing £7.8 million ($13.1 million) in the new facility, with industry matching funds. In addition to the UKAEA, the partners in the project include the National Nuclear Laboratory, research and technology group TWI, the National Physical Laboratory and the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.
When fully operational, the RACE centre will conduct research and development into remote applications and will offer access to state-of-the art facilities, remote handling equipment and expertise to design, implement, train and operate complete systems. Such applications for the technology include nuclear, oil and gas, sub-sea, space and construction.
The UKAEA said that its own experience with remote handling has been “honed over twenty years developing systems to maintain and upgrade the interior of Europe’s JET nuclear fusion experiment at Culham.”
RACE director Bob Buckingham said, “RACE will offer its customers the technical support to use the world’s best robotics to solve problems in their challenging environments. I am excited about leading RACE and there is no better place for it than Culham, with its tremendous expertise in remote handling.”
The RACE centre has already been awarded its first significant contract. Through a five-years contract with a consortium led by Assystem, RACE will support design, development, testing and operation of the remote handling system for the international Iter fusion project’s divertor. The divertor acts as an exhaust system to extract waste and impurities from the fusion fuel in the vessel.
Source: World Nuclear News
Next step for nuclear robotics
Robots have been useful in surveying dangerous areas of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, but a walking robot revealed by Toshiba today promises to undertake more complex tasks in future.
The new robot, known only as ‘the tetrapod robot’, can avoid obstacles, deal with uneven surfaces and climb stairs, enabling it to reach places in dangerous environments out of reach for current wheeled or tracked robots. It stands about waist-high and weighs 65 kilograms, carrying a dosimeter and main camera of its own as well as a secondary camera deployable into small spaces via a folding arm. In addition to on-board equipment, the robot can carry up to 20 kilograms and it is powered by a battery that lasts up to two hours.
Tokyo Electric Power Company has used robots several times to survey the contaminated reactor buildings at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In April, for example, a tracked robot completed a circuit of the torus room deep within the reactor building of unit 2. This two-hour operation, in an area too radioactive to send workers, returned images that confirmed the basic integrity of the torus and ended speculation that it had ruptured during the accident.
Toshiba said research will continue with the aim of developing future models that can “position and install shielding, stop flows of water and remove obstacles” as well as conduct surveys.
Source – WNN