After breaking all records for transferring waste material stored in spent fuel ponds, Sellafield Ltd has selected the Saab Seaeye Tiger robotic vehicle to work in one of the most hazardous environments on the planet.
The announcement came after the Tiger had worked consistently in the highly-corrosive conditions for nine months, during which time it only needed to pause for routine maintenance.
Sellafield has now ordered four Tigers for this extremely challenging role.
Specially adapted for the role by Saab Seaeye engineers in collaboration with Sellafield engineers, the Tiger was chosen for its long-proven reputation for reliability when working in demanding conditions in the offshore energy industry. When applied to nuclear waste, the Tiger’s durability means that there is limited need for intervention by operators for maintenance purposes, considerably reducing their exposure in this hazardous environment.
“The reliability of the vehicle is key for the health of operators,” says Phil Toomey, Technical Manager at Sellafield Ltd, “as they must wash down the Tigers during service checks and launch and recovery.”
Exposure to radiation for operators is carefully limited, and unplanned downtime will quickly exhaust their safe working period in any one year.
The nuclear-enabled version of the Tiger, called Tiger-N, gathers and sorts metre-long, 15-kg radioactive fuel bars for removal to long-term storage. This work can involve removing buried radioactive material from 30 cm of sludge.
For these difficult tasks, Sellafield’s fleet of Saab Seaeye Tiger-N electric robotic vehicles has a selection of tooling skids.
The skid options include an under-slung manipulator, a four-function forward-facing manipulator, a scoop, a clam shell grabber, a water-jet cleaner and a cutter skid.
“We wanted a robotic vehicle with proven performance,” says Toomey, “and we liked that the Tiger’s skid technology makes it easy to swap skids for different tasks.”
The Tiger has a 20-year record of working in challenging environments around the world, and along with its reliable and robust design, has the thruster power and ability to manoeuvre in tight spaces with agility and precision.