Sellafield robotics: Using spot more for spotless nuclear clean-up

Spot the dog has become a regular feature at Sellafield and a great mascot for the range of robotic tools and innovations that are transforming the way we work.

But it’s not all photo opportunities and test trials – spot has some serious work to do in cleaning up the Sellafield site and helping operators to stay out of harm’s way.

We recently deployed our robot canine into an active area at Sellafield for the first time, and it proved it was certainly up to the task.

Teams at Sellafield worked together on a project to understand the benefits of using spot to inspect and clean active cells that would normally require workers to enter in air-fed protective suits.

The safety benefits were immediately clear – this takes humans out of the hazardous area, reducing the risks to operators who can instead focus on the easier and more fulfilling job of operating spot remotely.

But this kind of innovative thinking brings time and cost efficiencies too. The work can be done faster as spot can work in these areas much longer than a human could safely do, and has halved the predicted costs and significantly reduced the waste generated from protective gear.

It’s the best example yet of the potential future for clean-up work on the Sellafield site, and shows how robots will work alongside humans as we work to create a clean and safe environment for future generations.

Charlotte Brew, sub project manager, Sellafield Ltd said:

We started with demonstrations of its potential and 6 months later, we’re using it to accelerate high hazard reduction. This work wasn’t meant to start happening until the late 2020s but identifying Spot like this has brought it forward. Just one robot dog is making a massive difference.

Sellafield Ltd operator, Paul Lupton said:

It’s about us being taken out of harm’s way. I do miss the hard work but I’ve no complaints about sitting down in a safe environment to get it done!

Before we would have 2 operators go in, and this would need up to 7 other people, taking up to 4 hours to prepare for an hour’s work. With Spot we do an hour, the battery runs out and we re-charge.

Even just an entry to take a photograph would be a major job. Now we just use the dog. It’s all there inside the cell waiting for you now.

Melanie Brownridge, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority technology and innovation director said:

This is a great example of taking innovation all the way through to deployment and being able to actually see the benefits being realised on our sites.

This exciting technology is helping move our people away from harm, reducing our costs significantly and could help us deliver our mission years earlier than planned.

We are also seeing the benefits across the NDA group as we share our experiences to overcome common challenges across multiple sites. Well done to the team for not only embracing innovation but making it business as usual – a great team effort.

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