Multi-purpose robotic platform for nuclear waste manipulation

Partners: HOPAX s.r.o., F I T E a.s., ROBOTSYSTEM, s.r.o.
Duration: 2017-2020

This work included research, concept projection and prototype realization of two critical modules of a robotic platform for underground nuclear waste manipulation.

The first part was to project the concept of a multifunctional robotic effector of an underground multi-robot for storage of disposal casks in a deep geological repository and the realization of a prototype of a dual robotic effector module and its master control system.

In the second part, research, realization, and testing of the robotic multi-wheel platform were done, focusing on its centration and symmetrical passage through circular profiles of disposal boreholes for storage of disposal casks with SNF using multifunctional robotic technology.

This project is co-financed from the state budget by the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic within the TRIO Programme under grant agreement No FV20197. (STARFOS TACR)
This project is co-financed from the state budget by the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic within the TRIO Programme under grant agreement No FV30447. (STARFOS TACR)

Project description

Robotic automatization is nowadays incorporated in a wide area of industrial processes and applications. It has high requirements for robustness in practical applications as well as for the efficiency of the solution. The focus of this project was the development of a novel and highly efficient robotic technology, with a vision of a new concept of a fully autonomous underground multi-robot for complex manipulation with disposal casks with spent nuclear fuel in deep geological repositories.

The newly designed robotic unit is equipped with a complex dual effector suitable for grasping disposal casks with spent fuel rods as well as bentonite pedestals on which the disposal casks are stowed. The design also allows the robotic unit to fill the storage tunnel with bentonite backfill after the disposal casks are stored. The solution brings improves in various aspects of the manipulation process. Since it is based on direct manipulation with the objects it reduces undesired mechanical contact during the manipulation process, highly reducing the risk of damaging the disposal casks. The newly developed in-wheel motor unit removes the dependency on designated rail structures or unnecessary modifications to the storage area. This allows the use of the robotic unit in circular horizontal boreholes originally designed for the storage of the disposal containers, making it highly efficient in its use and reducing the necessary amount of excavated material.

The function of the dual robotic manipulation module was demonstrated by its implemented prototypes in a real embodiment in test simulators. The robotic units are equipped with a system of controlled drives, transmission mechanisms, sensors, and a control system providing guidance and a comprehensive trajectory for the robot. These modules will become the basic building blocks of an underground multi-robot equipped with a complex dual effector. The solution is critical for respecting the deposition process in long horizontal borehole storage areas wherein nuclear waste is serially stored. Taking full advantage of a single robotic platform, storing disposal casks simultaneously with bentonite blocks, the proposed method and novel robotic technology have extremely high technological utility and economic value in long term applications.

Video demonstration:

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