We’ve shared updates from Boston Dynamics’ robotics lab before, and now the famous robots are back, but this time they’re not dancing, they’re cleaning up nuclear waste! A team of researchers from the University of Bristol hopes that robots could help keep humans safer in the decommissioning process of nuclear disaster sites. To test out their strategy, the researchers took a robot team to perhaps the most famous nuclear disaster site of all: Chernobyl.
On the ground, the team worked primarily in the New Safe Confinement (NSC) facility, a structure placed on top of the remains of Reactor 4 in 2016. On site, the researchers trained robots to create a 3D map of the area and measure radiation levels─which can be up to 40,000 times above normal levels in this location. This data can help researchers identify the location of radiation as well as how it is spreading.
Although Chernobyl is largely abandoned, it does attract tourists each year. The region has also become more prone to wildfires in recent years, which pose the threat of further radiation release and spread. The researchers are optimistic that the use of robots would help differentiate between radioactive waste types on site, boosting the efficiency of clean up efforts. If successful, robots could be deployed to decommission other nuclear sites, like Fukushima.
Image source: Chernobyl FSS