Carnegie Mellon University

CMU Robotics Team's Pipe-Cleaning Robot Delivered to DOE

August 17, 2018

Robotics Team Delivers Pipe-Crawling Robot to DOE

A team from Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute has delivered a 270-pound robot called RadPiper to the U.S. Department of Energy’s former uranium enrichment plant in Piketon, Ohio, where it will be used to identify uranium deposits on pipe walls.

RadPiper is an autonomous, tracked robot that crawls inside miles of 30-inch and 42-inch-diameter pipe at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, which is being decommissioned and prepared for demolition. The robot is equipped with radiation detectors and can identify sections of pipe that have hazardous uranium deposits.

This technology, developed by a team led by Robotics Professor William “Red” Whittaker, could potentially save millions of dollars in decommissioning costs by identifying those sections of pipe that need special handling and disposal. The rest of the pipe could remain in place and be demolished safely and less expensively with the rest of the process buildings — three gigantic structures that span the size of 158 football fields.

The CMU team has worked closely with DOE and Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth, the decommissioning contractor, to develop the robot. Fluor-BWXT staff members are now testing the robot as they work toward its deployment. The robot also could be used in the decommissioning of a similar plant in Paducah, Kentucky.

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