Manchester nuclear robotics development features in government R&D roadmap
Research from The University of Manchester-led Robotics and AI for Nuclear (RAIN) Hub has been featured in a newly-published government roadmap that aims to cement the UK as a leading research and science superpower.
The UK Research and Development (R&D) Roadmap sets out the UK's vision and ambition for science, research and innovation - and includes a case study on how Manchester research has led to robotic deployments on the Sellafield nuclear site.
Funded by the government's Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, the RAIN Hub develops robots that can solve challenges faced by the nuclear industry and has resulted in the first-ever deployment of a fully autonomous robot, CARMA, into an active area at Sellafield.
CARMA (Continuous Autonomous Radiation Monitoring Assistance) autonomously maps floor spaces to locate alpha, beta and gamma radioactive contamination, and radiation hotspots can be detected precisely without requiring people to enter a hazardous environment. Working with industry, the CARMA platform is now being commercialised and has the potential to make a huge impact on nuclear facilities across the UK.
Using robotics across nuclear sites aims to make possible the savings goals of the Nuclear Sector Deal - which targets a 20% to 30% cost reduction for decommissioning and new build - as well as improving efficiency and allowing safe access to areas too hazardous for human entry.
Inclusion of the CARMA case study in the new government roadmap highlights how successful and groundbreaking the research programme has been.
The RAIN Hub strives to make robotics the norm in the nuclear industry, and works closely with end users, regulators and the supply-chain to really understand the current challenges present within nuclear facilities. Regular technology demonstrations are possible due to The University of Manchester's Robotics for Extreme Environments Group's laboratory location in Cumbria, close to Sellafield.
Demonstrations allow the team to build trust in the technology and adapt to feedback from end users. While working in such a safety-conscious industry, allowing people from Sellafield to see a robotic platform in a laboratory environment has been essential in leading to deployments in active areas.