RadPiper (CMU)

Uranium-sniffing robot to help decommission DOE plant

The Department of Energy's Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant at Piketon, Ohio, was a colossal facility that produced enriched uranium for nuclear weapons from 1956 until 2001. Decontamination of the site started in 2011, and now a robotic helper is joining the cleanup crew.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute have developed a pair of RadPiper robots to help find uranium deposits on the walls of 75 miles of piping that runs throughout the facility. The machines will crawl through pipes that range from 30 inches to 42 inches in diameter using flexible tracks and take radiation measurements, according to a CMU news release.

The robots "see" obstacles ahead using LiDAR and a fisheye camera. A standard sodium iodide sensor will detect radiation by counting gamma rays.

With so much piping to be inspected, DOE needed "a smarter method," said Rodrigo V. Rimando, Jr., director of technology development for DOE's Office of Environmental Management. "We anticipate a labor savings on the order of an eight-to-one ratio for the piping accomplished by RadPiper."

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a reporter/producer at GCN.

Before joining GCN, Leonard worked as a local reporter for The Smithfield Times in southeastern Virginia. In his time there he wrote about town council meetings, local crime and what to do if a beaver dam floods your back yard. Over the last few years, he has spent time at The Commonwealth Times, The Denver Post and WTVR-CBS 6. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received the faculty award for print and online journalism.

Leonard can be contacted at mleonard@gcn.com or follow him on Twitter @Matt_Lnrd.

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