Robots to Help Aging Nuclear Plants?

A spherical robot equipped with a camera may navigate underground pipes of a nuclear reactor by propelling itself with an internal network of valves and pumps. Image: Harry Asada/d'Arbeloff Laboratory

The recent crisis in Japan has spurred the United States and other countries to think harder about nuclear power and safety. Nuclear facilities in the US may get a pipe inspecting robot to help them out.

Harry Asada, the director of MIT’s d’Arbeloff Laboratory for Information Systems and Technology and his colleagues are working on a way to inspect the pipes at a nuclear facility.

“We have 104 reactors in this country”, says Harry Asada. “Fifty-two of them are 30 years or older, and we need immediate solutions to assure the safe operations of these reactors.”

The round robots will have a series of valves with openings on either end.  The robot can open and close the valves to use the moving water in the pipe to make it move in different directions.

The robots will eventually be able to pan and tilt the exterior camera and will transmit images in real time using laser optics.

The robots will be used for several excursions or patrols and then break down from radiation.

Link via (Treehugger)

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