The scope of RadioRoSo is decommissioning operations performed in nuclear waste storage facilities. A significant amount of old and undocumented nuclear waste is buried in huge concrete silos in the nuclear facilities premises or often in barrels underground in unused mines in several countries. Many of these facilities, created as far as 50 years ago, pose a safety and environmental risk. Consequently, several countries have started the decommissioning of these waste in safer facilities. The main challenge is sorting the waste according to radioactivity level and compressibility to achieve efficient storage in modern and safer facilities.
Decommissioning is a complex and expensive process. A large industrial cell is created around the storage silo(s). Waste sorting is performed manually using mechanical master-slave manipulators The process is very slow and tiring for the human operators. Short shifts, a high number of workers and long time of training is required. The overall cost is huge.
RadioRoSo experiment aims at demonstrating that this job may be done by robots autonomously, much faster and with significantly lower cost. State-of-the-art machine vision, robotic manipulation and grasping will be employed to solve this real-world task. A special gripper will be prototyped to address the mid-level radioactivity conditions in the sorting cell.
As the RadioRoSo industrial partner Insaldo NES Ltd. has been involved in decommissioning of several site with nuclear waste. RadioRoSo team orients its activity to practical problems, where (dual-arm) robotic manipulation with the waste is needed.
The New Scientist magazine, issue of January 15, 2016 wrote: “Magnox swarf storage silo is considered the second most dangerous industrial building in Europe. It stores waste magnesium fuel cladding under water. Some sludge has leaked through cracks in the concrete, and there is a risk of explosion from hydrogen released by corrosion of storage vessels.“