World's largest heap of untreated nuclear waste needs more bots to cart around irradiated crap

Chernobyl? That's cute

Sellafield nuclear power station in Cumbria, northern England, is calling for help to increase the number of robots it uses to monitor and clean the site.

The plant already employs a number of machines to assist with maintenance but is seeking more innovation in specific areas. Some of these robots stretch the definition a bit – like the repurposed swimming pool cleaner now leading a less glamorous life scrubbing the walls of Sellafield's pile fuel storage ponds.

There's also the remote-control submarine called Avexis, which was dropped into the liquor of the Magnox Swarf Storage Silo. As well as filming, it can be moved to dislodge solid bits of waste from the silo walls.

In conjunction with the Robotics and Artificial Intelligence for Nuclear Research Hub (RAIN), Sellafield has put out a call for robotic assistance with three defined tasks.

It needs robots that can be deployed to remotely work at height in hazardous areas. It is also looking for machines able to autonomously remove "Special Nuclear Material" packages from a store and put them in a container for export, as well as droids that can remotely inspect the packages.

Sellafield is in the process of being decommissioned, meaning staff and robots are retrieving nuclear waste and reprocessing spent fuel. The Magnox reprocessing plant is due to close next year, which signals an end to nuclear fuel reprocessing in the UK.

Sellafield opened in 1950 and now lays claim to the unenviable title of the world's largest inventory of untreated nuclear waste. ®

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