Although there have been a relative few nuclear accidents/incidents over the last 30 years or so going back to Chernobyl (A level 7 disaster), any type of nuclear accident is significant to people’s lives and health as well as to the environment and surrounding industry. The most recent one was in Fukushima, Japan at a ‘level 5’ in which the reactor shut down after a 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The emergency cooling system failed and caused an explosion. Also, in 2011, the Onagawa nuclear power plant in Japan shut down due to the same earthquake and tsunami that Fukushima experienced. In this case a fire was the result.
The levels mentioned above are categorized by the International Nuclear Events Scales or INES. Chernobyl’s accident in 1986 was a ‘Level 7’ which means that there was a major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environmental effects requiring implementation of planned and extended countermeasures.
Fukushima’s ‘Level 5’ was considered an “Accident with wider consequences” with a limited release of radioactive material likely to require implementation of some planned countermeasures plus there were several deaths from radiation. There is usually severe damage to the reactor core.
Nuclear radiation exposure to the human body will severely damage and even cause fatality with high doses or prolonged exposure. Robot designs can be created that will enable an extension of human capabilities to minimize a radiation accident and render the exposed material to a safe enclosure.
This slideshow will show some of the real-time robotic solutions for nuclear pollution disposal, Nuclear reaction water pool emergencies and patrol, rescue of personnel in a nuclear power plant disaster, and general investigation and assessment.
Click on the slideshow image below to see some amazing technological advances in robotics for nuclear disasters and/or events:
A robotic mobile disposal design for disposal of nuclear pollution. 1 is the robot shell lined with 1 cm of lead; 2 and 5 are nuclear source detectors, 3 is the rotary head with two degrees of freedom, 4 is the monitoring platform which can rotate 360 degrees and tilt 0 to 180 degrees and 6 is the control box. 7 is the manipulator with six degrees of freedom mechanical arm and gripper joint. 8 is the six-wheel drive mobility platform with motor and carbon steel body. (Image courtesy of Reference tech paper: Design and Implementation of Control System for Nuclear Pollution Disposal Robot based on Wireless Communication, Wei Chen,Yongguo Zhao,Chengye Liu, Mingming Jiang, Jie Sun, IEEE 2017)
Modern day robotics can enable autonomous control in a mobile robot via LIDAR and visual means in a computerized feedback system. The robot can also be an extension of a human operator’s movements. The caveat here is that nuclear radiation levels can severely damage electronic components that control movement and decision-making. Rad hard components and/or adequate radiation shielding must be employed.
A remote control system must be employed via wireless LAN connected to a secure environment cable network. There will be a motion controller, a source detection controller, motor and motor drive, a navigation and positioning system, a six-axis manipulator, camera, with pan, tilt, zoom (PTZ) capability.