Britain and Japan have signed a research and technology deployment collaboration to help automate nuclear decommissioning and aspects of fusion energy production. According to the U.K. government, which announced the deal on January 20, the £12 million (about $16.5 million) U.K.–Japanese robotics project, called LongOps, will support the delivery of faster and safer decommissioning at the Fukushima Daiichi reactors in Japan and at Sellafield in the United Kingdom, using long-reach robotic arms.
The four-year collaboration on new robotics and automation techniques will also be applied to fusion energy research in the two countries.
Funded equally by U.K. Research and Innovation, the U.K.’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, and Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Company, the LongOps project will be led by the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA) Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE) facility.
Digital twin tech: A major feature of the LongOps project will be the deployment of sophisticated digital twin technology—the generation of models that pair virtual and physical systems, allowing for highly detailed data analysis. Digital twins can also assist in the forecasting of potential maintenance and operational issues. Software created through LongOps will allow RACE to demonstrate how robotic machines are controlled in real time during remote operations, according to the UKAEA.
Developments from LongOps will also be applied to the upgrading, maintenance, and dismantling of fusion devices, such as the Joint European Torus, once their lifespans have ended, the UKAEA said.
Quote: Andrew Tyrer, challenge director for Robots for a Safer World at U.K. Research and Innovation, said, “This landmark international collaboration between the United Kingdom and Japan will spearhead significant progress into the complex challenge of nuclear decommissioning. That these nuclear decommissioning operations were selected as the focus of U.K.-Japanese robotics collaboration, including U.K. engineers developing technology for use in Fukushima, highlights the U.K.’s world-leading strength in this sector. The United Kingdom’s strength has been accelerated in recent years by the Robots for a Safer World challenge from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.”