Robotics for nuclear environments exploration and decommissioning: challenges and emerging techniques

October 23, 2022


Thanks to the advancement of robotic technologies and artificial intelligence, the use of robotic systems in unstructured environments, such as search, rescue and accident response is increasing rapidly. It is known that robots provide safety benefits, as they can perform tasks that are highly dangerous, inaccessible, or too complex for humans. For instance, robots can work in presence of radiation, or extreme temperatures and pressure, and thanks to innovative designs, even explore areas that are difficult to access. The clean-up of nuclear power plants not only involves the decontamination and dismantling of nuclear infrastructure, but also the decommissioning of nuclear waste. High-energy radiation sources hasten the degradation of industrial equipment through exposure to ionizing radiation, with the equipment eventually becoming inoperative and having to be dismantled. Cleaning up nuclear waste is one of the key drivers for the development of robotics technology. Since the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster in 1979, automated robots have been designed to get right into the action, conducting test and inspection works, as well as decommissioning tasks that are considered too dangerous for humans. However, due to the extreme conditions and radiations, failures occurred in many attempts of using robotics technologies for the exploration of some parts of nuclear reactors which are completely inaccessible to human operators. Those failures are mainly due to communications failures, mis-operations, or malfunctions by radiations. Despite the many and varied advancements in the field, significant challenges remain and innovative technologies able to efficiently explore part of the reactors, which are completely inaccessible to humans are still missing and highly desirable.


The main objective of this workshop is to attract the interest of the robotics community on the use of robotics technologies for nuclear exploration and decommissioning by gathering researchers active in academia and industry to share current ideas and identify the future challenges related to this specific environment. There are an enormous variety of challenges in the nuclear industry, where robots may provide solutions. To ensure that efficient robotic solutions are identified is it important to enable synergetic engagement between a broad range of experts and early career researchers who are interested in the field. Finally, this workshop is also an opportunity to present and discuss the emerging technologies that are developed around the world as well as brainstorm on the possible future game-changing solutions for safe and reliable decommissioning robotic solutions.