Using Robotic Manipulators for Radioactive Waste Inspection

Sam R White, Dave A Megson-Smith, Suresh Kaluvan, David Burns, Thomas Bligh Scott

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)


The global nuclear industry has a growing volume of nuclear waste which needs to be scanned, sorted according to its activity and material type, then processed into the correct waste packages for long term storage and disposal. It is vital that there is a detailed understanding of the waste inventory stored in long term waste containers, as knowledge of their contents could predict or prevent any adverse effects in storage. The numerous “scan and sort” tables which are currently used at many different facilities around the world to sort waste into their correct containers are human operated and require very slow gamma scanning procedures combined with educated guesswork to manually sort the waste. This often leads to excessive conservatisms, with placement of lower activity wastes in higher activity containers, which in turn costs significantly more to store. In the United Kingdom it costs £46k per cubic meter to store intermediate level waste compared to just £2.9k per cubicmeterto store low level waste according to a 2008 Department of Energy and Climate Change report in the UK. A proposed solution to this problem, is the use of a robotic manipulator to automatically inspect the “scan and sort table” in order to produce an accurate 3D model of the table’s waste contents and attach an overlaid radiation map. The radiation map contains spectrometry data and can in consequence be used to distinguish and locate specific radioisotopes. The 3D model should be as accurate as possible in order to allow for a second robot arm with an attached gripper to grasp the objects and place them into their designated long-term storage container. Various scanning procedures are explored in this study including basic raster scanning, adaptive raster scanning and point sampling. The optimalsolution will in practice be defined by the required application and activity level of the wastes being inspected.The results presented in this study indicate that it is possible to produce a centimeter accurate 3D model of a mixed assortment of components on a nuclear waste “scan and sort” table. In addition, it was shown that the waste objects emitting radiation could be accurately identified and located, with an overlaid radiation map.This study is applicable across the nuclear waste management sector. Many of the ideas and concepts developed in this study are applicable in other decommissioning settings for example, dismantling of legacy gloveboxes or routine inspection of nuclear waste packages in storage.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWaste Management Symposia 2020
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2020


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