U.K. develops robotic system for Dounreay D&D

April 6, 2022, 3:04PMRadwaste Solutions
A robot called Lyra was used to survey an underground radioactive ventilation duct in Dounreay’s redundant laboratories. (Photo: NDA)

Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd. (DSRL) and the Robotics and Artificial Intelligence in Nuclear (RAIN) Hub, a consortium of universities led by the University of Manchester, are working together on the development of robots capable of accessing areas that are inaccessible or unsafe for humans to work in. The robots will be used to inspect and characterize Dounreay’s laboratories, buildings, and structures as the United Kingdom prepares to decontaminate and decommission the nuclear site.

Located on the Caithness coast in northern Scotland, the Dounreay site was the U.K.’s center for experimental fast breeder reactor research and development from 1954 until 1994. It comprises three shut down reactors and supporting facilities, including reprocessing plants, and a low-level radioactive waste facility. As a subsidiary of the U.K.’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, DSRL is responsible for the decommissioning and cleanup of Dounreay.

Meet Lyra: In 2020, a group of engineers from RAIN brought a small, remotely operated vehicle equipped with sensors, cameras, and a manipulator arm to Dounreay. Initial trials in an inactive building provided useful information, and a limited survey in the laboratories took place last year.

As a result of this field research, a second-generation robot, named Lyra, was developed, with an improved package of surveying tools, including LIDAR, multiple-angle cameras, and radiation probes, and with the ability to take swabs using the manipulator arm.

In February, the robot was used to carry out a survey of the 459-foot-long duct that runs under the central corridor between the laboratories, providing useful information that will help solve the challenge of decommissioning it.

They said it: “Now the characterization survey is complete, we have built up a very comprehensive picture of the duct, which will help us make informed decisions on how the duct should be decommissioned,” said DSRL project manager Jason Simpson.

Barry Lennox, director of the RAIN Hub, added, “We wanted to demonstrate that the robot could be used successfully in active areas. We added fail-safe devices, including a remote ‘reboot’ switch, and a winch to enable us to physically retrieve the robot if it got stuck on the debris in the duct. The survey has demonstrated Lyra’s reliability in active areas.”


Related Articles

It’s amazing all the things nuclear can do

January 3, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear NewsSteven Arndt

It has always amazed me how broad and diverse the nuclear science and technology field is. It is one of the things that drew me to the nuclear business in the first place. The American Nuclear...

The Decommissioning of Portsmouth’s X-326

Demolition and disposal shifted into high gear this spring at the DOE’s former uranium enrichment plant in Ohio.

November 14, 2022, 3:00PMRadwaste Solutions

In the 1950s, the U.S. Department of Energy constructed the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in rural southern Ohio to enrich uranium, alongside two other federally owned and managed...

The trouble with tritium

October 31, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear NewsJames Conca

The trouble with tritium is there is no trouble with tritium.At any level outside the laboratory, either experimental or manufacturing, tritium is harmless. Every year, we routinely release...

New nuclear project for Wales advances

October 12, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News

The United Kingdom’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding with Cwmni Egino to support the development of a small-scale nuclear...