Proposed DOE-EM funding would advance technology development

April 28, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
Savannah River National Laboratory recently oversaw a demonstration of a new radiological inspection technology called iGART, a ground-based robot that conducts radiological and nuclear inspections. The DOE’s Office of Environmental Management used the demonstration at the Savannah River Site to determine if there is an application value for iGART at SRS or other EM sites. (Photos: DOE)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management is looking to continue developing technology to aid in site cleanup activities if its fiscal year 2023 budget request is approved. The $7.64 billion budget request includes about $25 million for EM’s Technology Development Office.

Nick Wright, a mechanical engineer at Sandia National Laboratories, participated in a study of wearable robotics for tank farm workers who carry self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) respirators. In addition to the SCBA oxygen tank, Wright wore a powered knee exoskeleton device. The study will help determine whether exoskeleton devices reduce fatigue and injury for EM workers.

The proposed funding would allow EM to continue focusing on new solutions and technology to reduce costs, accelerate schedules, and protect human health and the environment, according to the DOE. The funds would be used for tank waste cleanup, soil and groundwater remediation, spent nuclear fuel operations, facility decommissioning and decontamination, and worker safety, among other things.

Study areas: Technological advancements would focus on wearable robotic devices, confinement ventilation equipment, autonomous ground vehicle radiation detection technology, and survey applications.

In addition, the technology development program would continue to offer technical assistance to EM cleanup sites. The assistance is provided by technical subject matter experts from the DOE’s national laboratories and from academia, private industry, and other federal agencies.

Critical need: “Technology development is a critical component of our environmental management mission,” said Nicole Nelson-Jean, EM associate principal deputy assistant secretary for field operations. “Our portfolio of technology development activities aims to improve worker safety. Potential technology investment areas include legacy tank waste disposition, remediation of soil and groundwater, facility decontamination and decommissioning, and the safe storage of spent nuclear fuel.”

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