Nuclear decommissioning, the process by which nuclear facilities are dismantled and made safe, is complex, hazardous and expensive. In many countries around the world, there is a large number of nuclear power stations either already offline or ready for closing down. This fleet needs innovative, cost-effective solutions that deliver the process faster and make it safer for operators. In the UK alone, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s estimated cost of decommissioning and clean-up is around £131 billion and could take up to 120 years. Of the UK’s 19 sites, Sellafield is the largest and has the most diverse range of nuclear-based activities. It, therefore, presents the most significant challenge.

i3D robotics is part of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority team led by Jacobs (formerly Wood Nuclear) to develop 3D mapping technology using stereo vision. Further work is currently being conducted by i3Dr with the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) and Game Changers (funded by Sellafield and run by FIS360 and NNL).

i3Dr is designing and producing bespoke instrument housings to meet the challenges facing nuclear decommissioning. The stereo vision systems combine machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence to map the terrain of unknown environments and their contents. These systems can be mounted on robots to be deployed remotely allowing environments to be mapped comprehensively, more quickly than by previous methods of observation, and with minimum risk to human operators.

  • 3D mapping software creates comprehensive replication of an environment in almost real-time
  • Machine learning algorithms enable the identification of potentially hazardous objects
  • Hardware is small and light enough to be mounted on a robot and manoeuvre around cluttered constrained environments
  • Stereo vision cameras capable of withstanding radiation
  • Robotic mounting allows for remote deployment
  • Tailored solutions for unprecedented levels of resolution and accuracy whatever the environment
  • Can be combined with a Raman spectrometer to allow for comprehensive characterisation of an unknown environment
  • Modular design means other technologies such as virtual reality, thermal imaging or radiation sensors can be incorporated

This video shows an example of remote 3D mapping using our Phobos 3D high-resolution stereo camera. The robot-mounted system produces detailed 3D maps using 5MP images to enable innovative methods for decommissioning highly radioactive cells.