Robot Keeps Chernobyl Clean Up Safe

Wednesday, September 1, 2010 @ 06:09 PM gHale


Just the word Chernobyl brings about thoughts of a disaster of epic proportions that a region will feel for decades upon decades.
It is now time to clean up as a modified version of the RoboCrane, a floating platform, will come to life over the destroyed reactor number four at the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine.
PaR Systems, a company based in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn., owns a license to use the computer-controlled roving tool platform in the area immediately surrounding the exploded reactor core.
On April 26, 1986, a confluence of a variety of factors and errors caused a massive power surge resulting in a core explosion at reactor number four of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine in the former Soviet Union. The core explosion released a plume of highly radioactive material into the atmosphere and necessitated the evacuation of nearly 340,000 people from the surrounding areas. The International Atomic Energy Association and the World Health Organization state that 31 people died of injuries sustained during the explosion and estimate that 4,000 additional cancer deaths may be attributable to the release of radioactivity.
The G-7 countries, the European Commission, and the Ukraine government decided to replace the hastily constructed “sarcophagus” that presently covers the crater with a more robust shelter in 1997. Construction on the shelter, which will house and support the tool platform and other instruments related to the cleanup effort, began in 2006.
Developed at National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the 1990s, the Modular Suspended Manipulator, expands upon the principle of a Stewart platform, a device that uses three sets of paired winches (motor-driven spools of cable) to suspend and manipulate a platform with six degrees of freedom (lateral, longitudinal, vertical, roll, pitch and yaw). Stewart platforms are most familiar for their use as the base of flight simulators. (Click here for the NIST RoboCrane project summary.)
PaR extensively modified the nine cable version of the Modular Suspended Manipulator to create a mobile tool resembling a pencil stuck through a slice of pizza. Cables affix to the top end of the pencil, or spine, as well as the pizza, the triangular platform, enables the whole assembly to not only move freely through the air, but also make complicated stylus-like motions. The design’s precision maneuverability throughout a large space and ability to use a large variety of tools make it ideal for this type of application.
The company will affix a variety of interchangeable tools to the end of the spine, including a robotic arm, drill, jackhammer, shear, high-power vacuum system, and closed circuit television viewing system. Users will operate all procedures remotely.



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