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Spot goes nuclear!

Spot the robot dog being tested at Sellafield.

Boston Dynamics’ Spot the robot dog has been put through its paces on the decommissioning of Sellafield nuclear power plant.

Sellafield Ltd held a three-day trial of Spot at the Calder Hall nuclear power station, which is being decommissioned. Calder Hall’s former turbine hall provided the tricky terrain to test not only Spot’s agility, but also its scanning and radiation detection capabilities.

If the test results are deemed successful, Spot could be deployed at locations across the Sellafield site to carry out routine tasks like inspections, mapping, data capture and characterisation.

Spot is able to perform autonomous missions and can be controlled remotely via an operator, thus improving safety by allowing the robot to enter hazardous, contaminated areas in lieu of a person.

The deployment of Spot would also speed up inspection times, as robots do not require as much personal protective equipment, and help save money by ensuring more frequent data collection and better predictive maintenance.

Rav Chunilal, head of robotics and artificial intelligence for Sellafield Ltd, said: “Our mission is to create a clean and safe environment for future generations. Robots like Spot are an integral part of our future. They offer us a way of getting jobs done in hazardous environments while keeping people out of harm’s way.

“Robots are excellent at performing repetitive and time-consuming tasks. This allows us to free up our people to undertake more fulfilling work contributing to our purpose: creating a clean and safe environment for future generations.

“Spot’s active demonstration has given us great insight into its capabilities. We’ll now study the findings before we take a decision on whether to deploy this technology at Sellafield.”

The test was undertaken with Boston Dynamics, Cumbria-based engineering consultant Createc, and the UK Atomic Energy Authority.

This Spot is not the first to be tested in a nuclear facility: another Spot carried out a radiation mapping project at Chernobyl for the University of Bristol last year.

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