Hot Robotics facilities to accelerate nuclear research

Bristol University is leading the launch of four ‘Hot Robotics’ facilities in the UK to provide robotics, drones and testing spaces for nuclear research.

The National Nuclear User Facility for Hot Robotics (NNUF-HR) sites are funded by the EPSRC and will be managed by the project’s individual partners across the UK. They comprise Bristol University’s Fenswood Facility in Somerset; the RACE (Remote Applications in Challenging Environments) at UKAEA (UK Atomic Energy Authority) in Culham, Oxfordshire; Manchester University’s RAICo One in Whitehaven and the National Nuclear Laboratory’s (NNL) Workington Facility in Cumbria.

Users will be able to access technology and support that would otherwise be very difficult or expensive, including the hire of quadruped robots and unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) to use on-site or at their own locations. They can also bring their own technology to test in simulated environments and mock-up rigs.

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While the facilities are available to the whole UK nuclear energy R&D community, UK academic researchers can access equipment for free through the ‘Access Scheme Fund’ which runs quarterly application rounds. Researchers can also apply for grants of up to £5,000 at any time.

“As someone who has worked in the field for many years, the fact we now have these four fantastic facilities and a website where users can actually select from a wide range of cutting-edge equipment to hire…is truly a game-changer for the industry,” said Prof. Tom Scott, NNUF-HR academic lead from Bristol University.

Professor Barry Lennox, who leads the NNUF-HR facility at Manchester University commented: “The RAICo One facilities provide a unique environment where researchers from academia can work directly with engineers and operations staff across the NDA estate and the nuclear supply chain, to ensure that the robotic systems they are developing address real industrial challenges and can exploit the direct route to industry deployment that is being established.”