TORONE - TOtal characterisation for Remote Observation in Nuclear Environments

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Chem Eng and Analytical Science

Abstract

The future use of nuclear energy in the UK and internationally is very much dependent on the ability to characterise the various highly radioactive environments that occur in the nuclear industry for both efficient decontamination and decommissioning as well as in the design of new nuclear fission reactors as well as fusion reactors.

Currently, site and material characterisation is costly and time consuming because remote methods for the environmental, chemical and geoscientific characterisation of man-made and natural materials, specifically designed for the nuclear arena, are limited. The inaccessible, complex and confined nature of these often high-radioactivity environments can preclude traditional field-based data collection techniques, which are often focused on sample collection and off-site analysis. With costs entering the tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds for sample analysis in a particular plant, and the possibility that access is so restricted that obtaining samples may actually be impossible, remote in-situ analysis prior to segregation may offer a cheaper, safer, quicker and thus far more attractive solution. On their own, current in-situ techniques (e.g. gamma spectroscopy, 3D laser scanning, elemental composition through laser induced breakdown spectroscopy), each answer a particular characterisation question, but on their own only provide a component of the full characterisation picture that is required for instance for waste segregation.

This project aims to combine such technologies into an integrated system, with each technology contributing in real-time to form a seamless jigsaw - a 'total characterisation' picture - setting characterised materials into the spatial context of the environment they are located in. Advanced robotics and control technologies will be used in a similar way to NASA's Curiosity Rover to form the flexible platform necessary for the trials in a range of nuclear environments from Sellafield in the UK to Fukushima in Japan.

Planned Impact

The environmental and societal impacts of nuclear energy generation cannot be overstated and have received national and global exposure for many years especially for waste disposal. Nuclear decommissioning and clean-up has been estimated to cost the UK tax payer between £90bn and £200bn over the next 100 years, produce a vast inventory of environmentally detrimental waste to dispose of, and potentially be of high risk to human health and safety. In addition, investment in new nuclear build before 2030 is estimated to be £60bn and the cost of building and operating a geological disposal facility is circa £12bn. The corresponding numbers internationally are enormous, with the global cost of nuclear decommissioning estimated to be £1tn. Translating the 'total characterisation' aims of this project into industry would however dramatically improve our understanding of nuclear environments, leading to accelerated decommissioning, decreased risk to human health and safety, reduction in the detrimental environmental effect through enabling waste segregation, and considerably reduce costs to the UK taxpayer. This represents enormous benefits to society in the UK and internationally. The project will also have an impact on the research and development in academia and end -user industry of new nuclear fission approaches as well as a greater understanding of the fusion reactor environment leading to accelerated introduction of safer more efficient low-carbon energy supplies for the benefit of society.

There is huge potential to translate outputs to other industrial applications. For example the proposed integrated technology would be equally at home characterising infrastructure in the oil and gas sector, whilst undertaking remote forensic investigation in the CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) event sector. In addition to industrial translation, in bringing together robotics, detectors and photonics characterisation, the project would fly the flag of Bh science and engineering in three areas that are not commonly grouped together, providing a new focus on such integrated technology.
 
Description We have developed spatial gamma and neutron detectors for operation on an autonomous robot for nuclear decommissioning applications. In parallel, robot mounted laser analysers are being developed for determining the elemental and molecular characterisation of surfaces in areas requiring decommissioning. This has so far been demonstrated on a robot arm in a mock-up hot cell for proof of concept. The robots have been developed for operation in nuclear environments with algorithms for recognising and steering clear of hot spots. An additional development has been the development of spatial databases for the characterisation results so that can be used in a robust way for safe and reliable decommissioning.
Exploitation Route We are working with end-users at Sellafield and Culham in addition to further nuclear engineering companies to enable safer, more reliable decommissioning and characterisation in extreme environments.
Sectors Energy,Environment

URL https://www.torone-project.com
 
Description Our research has led to interactions with Sellafield Ltd for deployment of the remote characterisation robots.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Energy,Environment
Impact Types Economic

 
Title LIBS spectra of nuclear materials 
Description Development of a database for Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) and Raman spectroscopy of nuclear materials which will aid in the characterisation phase of nuclear decommissioning processes 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact It is still under development but will be used for an Innovate UK project proposal for an actual decommissioing project at Sellafield 
 
Description Sellafield active measurements 
Organisation Sellafield Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We have described the feasibility of doing these tests and supplied papers demonstrating how similar measurements have been done elsewhere.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners are exploring with their colleagues how such tests on site can be done and supported in terms of time and resource.
Impact A partnership has been established with Sellafield sites Ltd. within which we are exploring the feasibility of active tests with our TORONE-derived, neutron/gamma-ray imager on site. If successful these tests are likely to have an impact on the policy taken on site to how such assessments are done.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Andrew West delivered a talk at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) - Pose Estimation for Mobile Robots to Maximise Data Quality of Fixed-Focus Laser Diagnostics in Hazardous Environments 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Andrew West presented his talk on the use of robotics in radioactive environments to the attendees of the conference, showcasing the advantages of using robots in dangerous environments to not only reduce risks to humans, but to also maximise data accuracy, such as through programmed repetitive tasks, or by being able to withstand the conditions for a longer period of time.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.ieee-ras.org/component/rseventspro/event/1142-iros-2018-ieee-rsj-international-conferenc...
 
Description Andrew West gave a talk at the LIGHT Conference in Changchun, China - Remote Photonics for Characterisation of Radioactive Environments 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Andrew West presented a talk titled "Remote Photonics for Characterisation of Radioactive Environments", presenting the capabilities of robotic use in identifying materials in environments that are potentially dangerous to humans.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Blog on Science and Industry Museum Website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A blog post written by TORONE Project Researcher Andy West was posted onto the Science and Industry Museum website, outlining the work going in to creating the robots for the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://blog.scienceandindustrymuseum.org.uk/robots-lasers-beams/
 
Description In-situ Optical Characterisation of Nuclear Environments, UK RAS Conference in Bristol, 2017. By Andy West 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Conference presentation at UK RAS Conference in Bristol, 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description PhLAME (Photonics and Laser Analysis of Materials and Environments) meeting, involving TORONE researchers, and external members of industry 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Members from the TORONE team hosted a PhLAME research group meeting, allowing for the exchange of ideas and news around nuclear decommissioning. In doing so, the direction of research has been validated, and industry professionals have been made aware of new research being undertaken around decommissioning
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description PhLAME Research Group research symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The PhLAME Research Group research symposium was a small research group meeting in which employees from nuclear industries, such as AWE, NNL, and Sellafield ltd, and researchers from the University of Manchester, including some of those working on the TORONE project, met to discuss ideas around decommissioning and clean up on nuclear listed sites. The presentations from researchers sparked debate on the real world applications of their research, with presentations from industry professionals creating discussion about policies in place, as well as how the link between research and industry can be improved.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.torone-project.com/phlame-events.html
 
Description PhLAME research group workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The TORONE project hosted a workshop/Symposium for the PhLAME research group in which current research, policies around nuclear decommissioning, and work practices in the nuclear sector. In doing so, links between researchers and industry professionals were made.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Poster presentation delivered by Andrew West at the Towards Autonomous Robotic Systems (TAROS) conference - ROS integration for Miniature Robots 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Andrew West presented a poster relating to some of the TORONE work and his findings. While there he presented this to a multitude of visitors, and increased interest in the use of robotics for nuclear decomissioning
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.brl.ac.uk/taros2018.aspx
 
Description Robots > Humans (Sometimes) Talk delivered by Dr Andy West at the South West Nuclear Hub 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Dr Andy West delivered a presentation outlining some of his work that his taking place within the TORONE Project. This was delivered at the South West Nuclear Hub, based at Bristol University, and sparked discussion around the use of robots within nuclear environments.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Taking part in an online Q&A Session 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Students around Manchester submitted questions to the Great Science Share, which involved staff from the University of Manchester, including a TORONE Project PDRA, answering these questions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.greatscienceshare.org/askaquestion
 
Description Talk at Sci-Tech 2018, titled 'Characterisation and Decontamination', delivered by Andrew West 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Andrew West, Ioannis Tsitsimpelis, and Paul Coffey demonstrated some of the robots being developed as part of the TORONE project at the Sci-Tech 2018 conference, promoting the work being carried out to professionals and researchers. This demonstration sparked some discussion around the use of the technology being developed.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://scitec2018.co.uk/attendees/
 
Description Talk by Andrew West at the Nuclear Frontiers conference - Using Mobile Robots for Characterisation of Nuclear Environments 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Andrew West presented a talk on the use of robotics in Nuclear environments, highlighting the benefits of using robots to reduce the risk to humans, as well as the completion of repetitive tasks in order to increase data accuracy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://southwestnuclearhub.ac.uk/event/nuclear-frontiers-conference/
 
Description Talk given at by Nick Smith and Andrew West at the Decontamination Science IR&D Workshop - 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Andrew West and Nick Smith presented completed and on-going work undertaken as part of the TORONE project, with a extended discussion session following afterwards. The event was organised by the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), and attended by industry and researchers whose work covers characterisation and decontamination of nuclear environments. Talks ranged from remote inspection to chemical analysis and processes. They were able to make new links with industry partners such as NNL and Sellafield Ltd, but also meet fellow university researchers (some of which are at the University of Manchester) and begin to foster possible sharing of work and collaboration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Talk given by Andrew West at the Sheffield Robotics Showcase - Robotics ans AI In Nuclear 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Andrew West was invited to present a talk on the robotics work being undertaken as part of the TORONE project. In doing so he presented the rationale behind the research, as well as the aims for the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description The TORONE project was featured in a News article on the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy website 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Members of the TORONE project team were interviewed to discuss the aims of the TORONE project, as well as it's potential uses in an article outlining the work of the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.ccfe.ac.uk/news_detail.aspx?id=449
 
Description UK - Japan Collaboration Workshop in Nuclear Waste Management & Decommissioning: 5-9 February 2019 (EPSRC sponsored) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Philip Martin, Barry Lennox and Michael Aspinall took part in workshop discussions in Kyoto with Japanese research scientists and industrial participants around the area of nuclear decommissioning. There was much interest in how the UK could help the Japanese in decommissioing the Fukushima nuclear site where characterisation in extreme environments could be expected to play a major role.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019