Appendix F Automation and Robotics
The area of automation technologies, commonly referred to as robotics, covers a wide range of system complexity and sophistication, from relatively simple mechanical manipulators ("robot arms"), to remote-controlled teleoperated systems, to autonomous systems. These systems can be either fixed in place or mobile.
Robotic systems employed in decontamination and decommissioning (D&D) applications offer potential benefits in terms of decreased personnel radiation exposure and decreased personnel costs. Robotic systems seem particularly suited to the repetitive nature of the gaseous diffusion plant (GDP) process building designs.
Throughout this report discussions of "automation and robotics" are inclusive of process automation, data collection and analysis, commercial robotic devices, and management of the total information database required in the complex D&D process. Opportunities for cost savings and safety improvements through use of well-planned automation and robotics have been identified only after comparison to manual operational experience or when manual operations are not possible because of unsafe or inaccessible conditions.
Emphasis has been placed on the use of commercially available equipment requiring minimal applications development. A focused, application-driven robotics development program is also underway in the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Office of Science and Technology (EM-50) that addresses many of the concerns expressed in this report.
A variety of robots are commercially available. Industrial robots (robot arms) are available in a variety of configurations from companies in the United States, Europe, and Japan. Typical applications include welding, assembly, painting, and material handling. A wide variety of end effectors (robotic tools) and sensors are available. Special systems are available for nuclear environments. Several commercial systems are available for laboratory sample preparation and analysis. Mobile robot systems are currently working "around the clock" in security applications. Various forms of teleoperated "pipe crawlers" are also available commercially. These systems are generally teleoperated sensor packages used for inspection of interior pipe surfaces inaccessible by humans. Teleoperated mobile systems are available from several companies. During the past 10 years these systems have been variously applied,
including in police operations and nuclear process operations (ANS, 1984, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995). These commercial systems are potentially adaptable to D&D applications.
The Robotics Technology Development Program of the DOE Office of Technology Development in the Office of Environmental Restoration and Waste Management is performing applied research and development for practical robotics for a variety of applications in DOE site cleanup projects and for work directly related to the D&D of GDPs (DOE, 1994).
Emphasis in the robotics decontamination and dismantlement program is on practical systems and capabilities for facility deactivation and on ongoing surveillance and maintenance to reduce costs, enhance safety, and improve the quality of operations. Major opportunities for robotics have been identified in mapping, characterization, inspection, dismantlement, and decontamination. Current major program activities are risk and cost reduction evaluation, an integrated facility mapping system, automated floor characterization, a dual-arm work module, mobile transportation, small pipe characterization, and internal duct characterization.
The Mobile Automated Characterization System (MACS) is based on a commercial mobile robot platform. A demonstration at the Oak Ridge GDP site is planned. Data will be gathered and compared with established manual practices. Funds have not yet been provided for this demonstration. Microrobot satellite concepts to be deployed from such a system as MACS are being explored for use in characterizing hard-to-reach locations around process equipment. For characterization and inspection of small pipes (3- to 4-inch internal diameter), a specialized system is being developed. An internal duct characterization system that contains a radiation detector, lights, and a mechanical tool has been demonstrated successfully in 200 ft of 12-inch duct at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory. A pipe asbestos insulation removal robot is under development at Carnegie Mellon University for 4-inch to 8-inch diameter pipes. This system will remove, compress, and bag the asbestos at a rate of 4 to 8 ft per hour. A 4:1 waste compaction is anticipated. A remotely operated vehicle, with carbon dioxide blasting for surface decontamination, is being developed to remove paint from surfaces, such as painted floors in facilities at the Oak Ridge GDP.
A public demonstration was recently held for a mobile robotic work platform (ROSIE) under development by Carnegie Mellon and RedZone Robotics. This vehicle is being shipped to Oak Ridge National Laboratory for testing with the laboratory's dual-arm workstation.
The shutdown Oak Ridge GDP facilities provide unique opportunities for testing, demonstrating, and evaluating many of the robotic developments discussed above. The planning and staging of these demonstration systems in the GDP environment prior to the start of actual D&D operations can provide invaluable planning data.
ANS (American Nuclear Society). 1984. Proceedings of the Robotics and Remote Handling in Hostile Environments, Topical Meeting held April 23–27, 1984 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. La Grange, Illinois: ANS.
ANS. 1987. Proceedings of Remote Systems and Robotics in Hostile Environments, Topical Meeting held March 29–April 2, 1987 in Pasco, Washington. La Grange, Illinois: ANS.
ANS. 1989. Proceedings of the Third Topical Meeting on Robotics and Remote Systems held March 13–16, 1989 in Charleston, South Carolina. La Grange, Illinois: ANS.
ANS. 1991. Proceedings of the Fourth Topical Meeting on Robotics and Remote Systems held February 25–27, 1991 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. La Grange, Illinois: ANS.
ANS. 1993. Proceedings of the Fifth Topical Meeting on Robotics and Remote Systems held April 25–30, 1993 in Knoxville, Tennessee. La Grange, Illinois: ANS.
ANS. 1995. Proceedings of the Sixth Topical Meeting on Robotics and Remote Systems held February 5–10, 1995 in Monterey, California. La Grange, Illinois: ANS.
DOE (U.S. Department of Energy). 1994. Robotics Technology Development Program. DOE/EM-0127P. Washington, D.C.: DOE. February.