For most industries in which robotics have been or are expected to be applied, such as automotive, materials handling and metal (versatile industries and therefore predestined for automated robotic solutions) the incentives to automate relate directly to maintaining competitive advantage, with an emphasis on product throughput and quality output. But for some industries, the attraction of adopting automated robotics is their ability to operate in hazardous environments, thereby removing the potential risks that humans might be exposed to. Consider the nuclear industry. ‘Early nuclear plants were designed for a life of only 30 years, though with refurbishment, some have proved capable of continuing well beyond this. Newer plants are designed for a 40 to 60 year operating life. At the end of the life of any power plant, it needs to be decommissioned, cleaned up and demolished so that the site is made available for other uses’. The current nuclear provision is estimated at some £164bn, over the next 120 years as the NDA (nuclear decommissioning authority) undertake the decommissioning of 17 of the UK’s older nuclear sites. Much of this cost is associated with labour. Contractors and engineers, or HWW (hazardous waste workers) who are involved in complex and complicated decommissioning activities are (rightly) unable to remain in contaminated areas for long periods of time. So the length of time it shall take for a particular manual task or activity involving radioactive waste to be completed is lengthened, and costly. With this in mind, legislation and expenditure considerations are impacting upon how businesses are tackling the effective management of their hazardous waste and are driving the adoption of automated waste management, incorporating robotics. Process efficiency, in addition to the elimination of manual intervention are, taking into account the deadlines to which the UK government are working towards, key drivers in the adoption of automated robotics solutions within nuclear decommissioning applications. Automated systems, incorporating KUKA robots, are in use in some of the largest decommissioning facilities around the world, and in the UK. The robots to which we refer are readily available and are being utilised within environments such as car production lines and in foundries. In short, KUKA robots can be adapted to any industry and undertake almost any task. As more nuclear facilities are being decommissioned than opened, decommissioning continues to become a major task. Harnessing the potential of automated robotics for innovative use in decommissioning, simply put, makes the job of cleaning up nuclear sites easier and safer.
Connecting Industry 24th Jan 2019 read more »