Robotics in the nuclear industry

Not to be confused with telerobotics in which the mechanical arm is remotely controlled by an operator using CCTV, ST robots are programmable and autonomous. They are especially suitable for routine operations such as testing, swabbing and routine handling of samples. Typical applications include routine measurements, handling radiochemicals and nuclear decomissioning.

Systems are always designed and built using the customer's standards, drawing standards and documentation requirements e.g. quality plan. A mock-up of the application area is made and the system is tested in the mockup using a formal works test procedure. Installation is done by our own technicians meeting all customer's safety requirements and using installation method statement or customer's designated documentation format.

Emerald Article: Robotics in the nuclear industry

This page is organised as a series of pictures of actual applications with descriptions alongside (pictures speak louder than words!)

Picture Gallery
A twin-robot system for swabbing steel boxes for waste products.

The R15 robot against the wall does the swabbing with 4 axes. The major axes are X and Z. The Y axis is telescopic which improves the ratio between fully retraced and fully extended. It is combined with a yaw axis (called M-type).
Another view of the same robot showing the waste container outside the door.

Over the door can be seen a single axis used for carrying swabs up to a manual operator (working with tongs).
On the same wall but higher is the second robot which takes swabs from a glovebox and passes it to the swabbing robot. Access is via a lead shield door which can be seen to the left of the 'posting' robot. The door is under the control of the robot controller as is another door on the outside. The swab is placed on a shuttle by the operator and pushed into a tube. The outer door closes, the inner door opens allowing access by the posting robot. ST designed the glovebox, doors, drives and shuttle.
Close-up of the exchange of swab from a posting robot to a swabbing robot
Close-up of the 'M-axis', telescopic linear axis developed specially for nuclear use, as it will fit in confined spaces. It has integral yaw axis and gripper.
Two robot controllers in one cabinet together with all necessary relays, interlocks and power drives for shield doors. Behind may be seen the viewing window and a row of tongs; to the right of the viewing window is a control pendant. All robot functions are controlled from this pendant.
Another twin robot system in a mockup
Another robot controller on another installation. Glovebox is behind.
This robot is designed only for handling samples. Samples are housed in lead chambers with shield doors. The robot controller controls the doors as well as gripper and interlocks.

ST has produced many similar robots for handling radioactive samples. The one in the picture was installed 15 years ago and is still in regular use. Recent installations often comprise our R19 robot arm on a linear track.

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