Robotics and Remote Systems Division
It has been a busy year. Thanks to everyone who participated in this summer’s ANS annual meeting in Minneapolis, MA, and many other national and international meetings, workshops and conferences that promoted and advanced the RRSD mission.
Robotics is more relevant than ever. The interest in robotics for nuclear decommissioning continues to expand across the globe. Countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, South Korea, Japan, Ukraine are conducting research and development, as well as, deploying robotic and remote systems in their own unique challenging environments with the intentions of reducing risk to humans and environment. In the US many universities and national labs continue their R&D efforts and deployment or robotics systems across the US nuclear weapons complex.
Interest in robotic technologies has also increased among commercial nuclear power utility companies across the world. Due to the increased interest, opportunities for our membership to get together and exchanges ideas has also increased. Earlier this year, the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) hosted a Workshop on the Application of Remote and Robotic systems in Nuclear Back End Activities – Way Forward in System Implementation. This international workshop was conducted at France’s Marcoule site and took place on 30-31 January 2019. I had the honor of participating and representing robotics initiatives being conduced in the US and other countries. Also, earlier this year at the Waste Management Symposia 2019 a good number of sessions (oral and posters), as well as panels, were dedicated to robotics for D&D, high level waste tanks inspections, and remote inspection of contaminated surfaces. International cooperation still moving strong with countries such as UK and South Korea. Recently our former chair, Dr. Mitch Pryor, participated in this past summer’s Robot Week in the UK (see article in the 2019 Newletter). In addition, in France, the NEA is busy organizing next summer’s Robotic workshop. RRSD will be involved in the organization of the event and participating/presenting as well.
The increased interest and resulting activities are a net positive for the broader robotics and remote systems community. The Executive Committee (EC) has committed to raising awareness of these and other opportunities for our members, as well as using these collaborative opportunities to bring broader awareness to our own activities, like our topical meetings.
Finally, ANS RRSD continues to collaborate with IEEE to conduct an international robotic topical projected for 2021. We hope to see you there.
Leonel E. Lagos
DOE-EM Robotics Exhibition at 2018 WM Symposia
The Waste Management 2018 (WM2018) conference held this past March featured the development and application of robotics and sensing to overcome radioactive waste management challenges. This rapidly evolving technological area was showcased through topical sessions and extensive displays of equipment from industry, government and academia exhibitors, which were demonstrated on the show floor. There were a total of 98 papers, 138 presentations, and 15 posters among 27 separate robotics sessions. The robotics sessions represented over 18% of the conference papers and 17% of the panels. The attendance at the sessions averaged 37 with a high of 85 during session 003, “US DOE-EM Robotics,” during which the stage was set for the many papers, panel presentations and posters. These statistics set a notable precedence for the first-time theme at WM2018. The Robotic Pavilion at the symposia showcased 30 different robotic platforms and tools by 20 DOE national labs, universities, and other federal agencies to highlight the wide variety of robotic devices for the equally wide use-applications. The pavilion featured a four-section area that incorporated different surface-types and configurations for hands-on, live demonstrations of the robots’ capabilities. Five companies also exhibited their robotics products and capabilities during the conference. The overall value to the nuclear cleanup and radioactive waste management community at WM2018 was a significantly increased awareness and knowledge of robotics as work- and mission-enabling tools.
DOE-EM Robotics Roadmap
In FY17, a team was built to develop a roadmap to provide strategic direction to the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management’s (DOE-EM) Science of Safety Initiative by establishing an actionable framework to infuse and use robotics, remote systems, and related technologies to lower occupational risks and exposure and enhance the productivity of workforce personnel. Site needs were surveyed, key technologies were identified, and a mapping of technologies to needs was developed. The resulting roadmap includes nearterm deployments as well as near- and far-term research and development tasks. An update of the roadmap was presented at the Waste Management Symposia 2018 during Panel Session 060. The panel was chaired by Mr. Kim Auclair, (KD Auclair & Associates LLC) and Mr. John Lee (US DOE EM). The panelists included Mr. Rodrigo Rimando (US DOE EM Office of Technology Development ), Mr. Richard Voyles (Purdue University) and Mr. Jason Wheeler (Sandia National Laboratories ). During this panel, the DOE-EM Roadmap was presented, and all team members were available to answer questions from the audience.
Surge in RRSD Related Activities in UK
Two ambitions RRSD related programs are about a year into their research after awards from the British Research Councils for Engineering and Physical Sciences (EPSRC) and the Natural Environment (NERC). The program’s purpose is to develop and deploy robotics and artificial intelligence systems in extreme environments. Robotics and AI in Nuclear (RAIN), led by the University of Manchester, is a team of eight university and research lab participants whose overall objectives are to “lower costs within the nuclear industry, reduce timescales, reduce risk, improve safety, promote remote inspection and reduce the chances of human exposure to radiation and other hazards.” The National Centre for Nuclear Robotics (NCNR) is led by the University of Birmingham and includes 7 universities leading the way to deliver the significant advances necessary to address UK’s 4.9 million tons of legacy waste as well as support future monitoring, maintnance and plant life extension tasks. Including consortiums addressing off-shore energy and space robotics, the UK invested £68M into research related to robotics and artificial intelligence in extreme environments. These efforts have enabled UK’s researchers to reach out to the international communities, particularly in Japan, South Korea, and other EU partners, to collaboratively address the common problems facing each community in terms of safety, clean-up, and emergency response.
RRSD Collaboration Efforts with South Korea
There have been a series of efforts for collaboration between the South Korean RRSD community and the ANS RRSD. Last year, a number of US RRSD representatives visited South Korea per invitation by the RRSD division of the Korean Nuclear Society. Besides the conference attendance, it provided opportunities to assess potential collaboration areas and identify potential partners. Following up, a new action item was added at the US-ROK Joint Standing Committee on Nuclear Energy Cooperation (JSCNEC) to pursue further programmatic collaboration on R&RS for nuclear D&D. Subsequently, at the RRSD executive committee meeting, follow-up actions were discussed. A suggestion was made for an international workshop on D&D and emergency response to invite experts in the R&RS and D&D community of the US and South Korea as well as other countries such as UK. Representatives from ANS RRSD, Leo Lagos and Young Soo Park, have visited South Korea to promote participation in this workshop as well as future collaboration. It was agreed by both the US and South Korean participants to jointly host the event and further the collaboration in D&D and ER robotics.
RRSD Executive Committee Meeting in Philadelphia
The ANS summer meeting was a great place to connect with our colleagues and catch up in the exciting work that is being conducted by our Executive Committee members. This was the last meeting conducted by our former chair (Dr. Mitch Pryor—University of Texas—Austin). Mitch will continue contributing to the EC in the capacity of Ex-Officio. Also, a plaque was presented to outgoing member, Mr. Luke Reid (Savannah River National Laboratory). RRSD would like to extend our appreciation to Mitch and Luke for all that they have done for RRSD throughout the years. In addition, three new members of the Executive Committee were welcomed to the group, including Jim Tulenko (University of Florida), Adam J. Carrol (Oak Ridge National Lab), and Corrie Ian Nichol (NuScale Power). During the meeting, discussions regarding the collaboration between IEEE and RRSD took place and the framework for this collaboration was established. Three potential host sites were identified and a selection process was established. RRSD will continue to provide updates on this joint topical between IEEE and RRSD.
Other business included discussing the ANS Winter meeting in Orlando, FL, and the preparation of abstracts/papers to be submitted. The RRSD committee agreed to solicit the interest of our members for abstract/paper submissions and organize at least two sessions at the Winter meeting. Also, Mr. Gary Benda (WMS Deputy Managing Director) provided an update on the 2018 Waste Management Symposia (WMS) which included “robotics” as the central theme for the conference. Many RRSD members participated, presented and showcased their robotics technologies at WM18.
Finally, at the meeting, we also welcome the new RRSD officers that included Leonel E. Lagos (Chair), Brian E. O’Neal (Vice Chair), Young Soo Park (Secretary), and Steven W. Shaw (Treasurer).
2019 ANS Winter Annual Meeting (Nov 17-21/2019 Washington DC)
2020 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Hazardous Environments (Jan 2020 (tentative), Location (TBD))