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Robotics experts to help with Sellafield decommissioning

Wednesday 28 February 2018

ROBOTICS experts have clinched prestigious UK Industry & Strategy Funding for the second time this academic year.

The funding will involve the Autonomous Systems & Robotics Research Group working to make nuclear decommissioning safer, faster and more cost-effective.  

It follows an earlier EPSRC win to develop AI technology with the UK Space Agency in a £22.7m project involving 20 organisations.  

This latest nuclear clean-up scheme  sees a consortium of industry and academia tasked with designing a system for dismantling highly radioactive rooms or ‘cells’ at Sellafield in Cumbria, UK, Europe’s most complex nuclear site. 

Hazardous environments

Lead partner The Wood Group won £1.5m from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and Innovate UK to carry out the work.  

They will work with Airbus Defence and Space, Clicks and Links, Damavan Imaging SAS, Digital Concepts Engineering, IS-Instruments, I3D Robotics, Kawasaki UK, TWI and The University of Salford.  

Bob MacDonald, CEO of Wood’s Specialist Technical Solutions business, said: “Our innovative proposal for a fully remote solution removes the operator from a hazardous environment and is adaptable enough to tackle different tasks, many of which present unique challenges.”  

The solution will combine many existing technologies including novel material handling solutions to reduce the risks of working at height, mixed reality headsets, a multi-fingered gripper allowing robots to grasp different objects and a navigation system designed for missions to Mars that enables autonomous mapping where human access is impossible.  

Track record

Samia Nefti-Meziani, professor of artificial intelligence, said: “The University of Salford has a long and successful track record in developing robotic grippers for industry.  

“We have created some fantastic robots capable of lifting huge objects or extremely light ones with the tact of a human hand.  

“This is an extremely important and prestigious challenge for the team to be involved in.”

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Gareth Hollyman, Senior Press & PR Officer (Science)

0161 295 6895