INL engineers become drone pilots to prepare for waste vault testing

September 7, 2022, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions

The Department of Energy’s Calcine Retrieval Project (CRP) at the Idaho National Laboratory Site is progressing toward what is likely to be a first: flying a light detection and ranging-equipped drone inside a high-level radioactive waste vault to map its interior.

SwRI demonstrates drone autonomy technology

November 29, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News
SwRI engineers used LIDAR point cloud data to reconstruct a high-resolution image of a facility that houses electric turbines at the nuclear power plant. 3D cubes, or voxels, on the left provide spatial information on the turbine facility. Point clouds were reconstructed to create the high-resolution image of the turbines on the right. SwRI specializes in data visualizations to identify damage and potential hazards following accidents at nuclear power plants and other hazardous facilities. (Graphic: SwRI)

During the EnRicH 2021 European Robotics Hackathon, Southwest Research Institute’s unmanned aircraft system (UAS or drone) explored and mapped the interior of a nuclear power plant, detecting radiation sources autonomously, without the aid of a human pilot.

SwRI’s UAS technology can potentially assist in life-saving search-and-rescue missions and hazardous inspections at industrial facilities and infrastructure following natural disasters and other incidents.

Ratliff and Harris: Innovation for safety and reliability

October 23, 2020, 3:14PMNuclear NewsSusan Gallier



When Floyd Harris began working at Duke Energy’s Brunswick nuclear plant about 24 years ago as a radiation protection technician, robotics and remote monitoring were considered tools for radiation protection and nothing more. Now, teams from across the site, including engineering, maintenance, and operations, rely on the system of robots and cameras Harris is responsible for. “If you want to put those technologies under one umbrella,” says Harris, who now holds the title of nuclear station scientist, “it would be monitoring plant conditions.”

That monitoring is critical to effective plant maintenance. As Plant Manager Jay Ratliff explains, the goal is to “find a problem before it finds us” and ensure safety and reliability. Nuclear News Staff Writer Susan Gallier talked with Ratliff and Harris about how robotics and remote systems are deployed to meet those goals.

At Brunswick, which hosts GE-designed boiling water reactors in Southport, N.C., ingenuity and hard work have produced a novel remote dosimetry turnstile to control access to high-radiation areas, an extensive network to handle data from monitoring cameras, rapid fleetwide access to camera feeds to support collaboration, and new applications for robots and drones.