Robots 'could enhance nuclear safety'

25 July 2011


Posted by Samuel Couratin

Engineers in the US have developed new ball-shaped robots that could improve the safety of nuclear power stations.

According to the team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the tiny machines can be used to monitor underground pipes.

They are able to identify a radiation leak and could be employed in buried conduits that transport the water used to cool pressure vessels.

Harry Ansada, Ford Professor at the MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering, stated: "We have 104 reactors in this country. Fifty-two of them are 30 years or older, and we need immediate solutions to assure the safe operations of these reactors."

With limited means currently available for identifying leaks and corrosion in tiny pipes underground, scientists have developed egg-sized robots with cameras that can swim through nuclear reactors and cooling systems.

The development follows the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which damaged the Fukushima nuclear power plant, causing fuel rods to melt through pressure vessels.

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