As part of a substantial boost of £31 million of government funding for technology development in the nuclear sector, the LaserSnake project is entering its second phase to develop high-powered laser cutting systems and robots for remote nuclear decommissioning.
Cutting-edge technology for nuclear decommissioning – LaserSnake enters its second phase
The aim of the new three-year project will be to produce enhanced laser cutting technologies, new, larger snake-arm robots, and to demonstrate these ‘on the road’. In this way, site license companies will be able to see the capabilities and benefits of the new systems and to examine the data which contribute to establishment of a safety case for using the technology in active environments.
The success of the recent LaserSnake feasibility study initiated and carried out by OC Robotics and TWI under the auspices of the Technology Strategy Board, the UK’s innovation agency, led to the establishment of the LaserSnake2 project with its extended team. TWI, OC Robotics, ULO Optics, Laser Optical Engineering and the National Nuclear Laboratory, will collaborate to make this new technology industry-ready. The project will receive grants of £5.8 million from a programme jointly funded by the Technology Strategy Board, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency (NDA).
At present there is no standard deployment of remote cutting technologies that can be cost-effectively applied in high-hazard environments. LaserSnake2 will address the issue by conducting research with two types of robot – one for open access spaces and one for confined spaces – equipped with high power lasers for cutting contaminated material. The approach has the potential to increase safety and reduce decommissioning timescales and costs.
The objectives of LaserSnake2 are to:
- develop long-reach, snake-arm robots for hazardous and confined spaces, in air and underwater;
- develop laser cutting optics for safe, remote cutting in air and water – focusing on nuclear decommissioning;
- consider the regulatory and certification issues associated with tele-operated delivery of laser cutting solutions for the nuclear industry;
- combine snake-arms and mobile robots to create a mobile platform for exploration of complex spaces.
The demonstration phase for LaserSnake2 will be presented on behalf of all the project partners in 2015 at TWI near Cambridge, and following this ‘on the road’ at a number of nuclear sites.
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