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Autonomous vehicles coming quicker than we think?

The Joint European Torus (JET), based in Oxfordshire, UK, is known for housing the largest fusion reactor in the world and carries out a large amount of research when it comes to nuclear fusion. Their latest project, however, is more than just studying nuclear fusion, but researching ways to use nuclear fusion in autonomous vehicles.  

Using a test called RACE, the team at JET have been researching ways nuclear fusion can help support robotic devices and their development. The installation of equipment into extremely small space caused the reactor shell to activate by neutron bombardment, in turn causing a nuclear fusion reaction which can be used within nuclear fusion studies but also outside. 

“We are increasingly concerned with decommissioning, not just at Sellafield but we have projects there, internationally,” explained Steve Wheeler, head of RACE operations. “We are also involved in RAIN (robotics and AI for nuclear), a funded research hub led by the University of Manchester and also involving the Oxford Robotics Institute, Sheffield, Liverpool, Nottingham and Bristol [universities]. That’s lower technology readiness level work, but applied research, looking at real applications of robotics, remote handling and AI to solve actual problems in hazardous environments.” Such environments are where RACE comes into its own, Wheeler adds. “We’re involved in a wide range of those environments, and that can be for inspection, maintenance, upgrades or decommissioning, where it’s often associated with size-reduction tasks; cutting things up and taking them out of their operational location for treatment and/or disposal.

“We have about 150 people here, organised into a mechanical design team, an electrical systems team, a control and software team and an operations team. It’s the operations engineers who have the experience of doing things remotely. We have 35,000 hours of operational experience in doing difficult tasks entirely remotely, and that’s what makes us unique; we don’t build or sell robots but there are lots of people who do. We are a business unit of the Atomic Energy Authority: we don’t compete with other companies in the remote handling sector; we support them in winning contracts and bids and they subcontract to us to access our expertise.”

You can read more here: The Engineer

Photo Credit: The Engineer

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Category

engineering

Date

December 7, 2018

Author

Sally

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