Robots Application in Nuclear Industry

Robots, whether teleoperated under autonomous or supervisory control have been used in a variety of applications in maintenance and repair. The following subsections describe many of these systems, focusing primarily on applications for which working robot prototypes have been developed.

Teleoperators have been utilized as well in the maintenance role for more than 4 decades in the nuclear industry. Several features of maintenance make it a good application for teleoperators in this arena.

First is the low frequency of the operation, which calls for a general-purpose system capable of doing an array of maintenance tasks.
Second, maintenance and repair of nuclear industry require high levels of dexterity.
Third, these tasks complexity may be unpredictable because of the uncertain impact of a failure. For these reasons, the choice for this role is often between a human and a teleoperator. When the environment is hazardous, a teleoperator is generally the best selection. If humans in protective clothing can perform the same job, the benefits of having teleoperators continuously at the work site need to be weighed against the cost of suiting up and transporting humans to and from the work site. While humans are likely to be able to complete tasks more quickly than teleoperators, using teleoperators can: (1) shorten mean time to repair by reducing the response time to failures, (2) reduce health risks, (3) improve safety, and (4) improve availability by allowing maintenance to take place during operations, instead of halting operations.

The maintenance important for nuclear industry robotics, the proceedings of the 1995 American Nuclear Society topical meeting on robotics and remote handling included 124 papers, nearly a quarter of which were devoted to some aspect of maintenance. The 1997 meeting included 150 papers, where more than 40% dealt with some aspect of maintenance. Furthermore, if one considers environmental recovery operations as a form of maintenance, then a much larger proportion of papers at both meetings were maintenance-related.

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