Robotics for Nuclear Material Handling at LANL:Capabilities and Needs Page: 4 of 10
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automation systems extremely challenging. Therefore,
maintenance an failure recovery become essential design
considerations for any glovebox automation system.
2.3. FEATURED APPLICATIONS
Two LANL automation applications are presented in
subsequent sections. The first is the ARIES line, which has
been in operation for the last decade includes several
automation projects developed at LANL. It clearly shows the
advances made in automation technologies over the last decade
and a half. The second application is a Sphere Cleaning
Robotic System - which is currently under development for
future deployment. This system is built around a redundant 7-
Degree-of-Freedom (DOF) manipulator.
3. AUTOMATION IN ARIES
The ARIES line has been a significant development
opportunity for glovebox automation technologies. ARIES
receives the cores of retired nuclear weapons, called "pits",
separates the nuclear materials from the non-nuclear
components, and converts the nuclear components into oxides,
which are packaged according to the DOE 3013 packaging
standard [DOE, 2004] into stainless steel containers. These
containers are subsequently decontaminated, leak checked and
released for a non-destructive assay to measure and
characterize the material content of each container. These
containers can be stored for up to 50 years, used in international
treaty compliance, and eventually, the oxide materials
contained within these containers can be transformed into
MOX fuel for nuclear reactors. This process is schematically
shown in Fig. 3.
Fu n c
Pit Dehydride- Plutonium Assay
Bisection mace Metal
o Conversion -0
f__ Oxide Canning
Incoming Pit Plutonium Removal
Figure 3. The ARIES glovebox line process. ARIES
converts retired nuclear weapons into materials suitable for
storage, inspection or reuse [McKee, 2008].
The Non-Destructive Assay (NDA) module and conveyor
modules were the first modules within ARIES to be automated.
Currently, automation systems are being added to the
Disassembly Module (Pit-D) and the Robotic Integrated
Packaging System Module (RIPS). RIPS represents the most
complex automation system yet deployed within ARIES. These
automation systems will significantly decrease the ORE of
3.1. ARIES CONVEYOR SYSTEM
The ARIES conveyor system was the first portion of the
ARIES line to be automated. Because it interacts with and
provides material handling for every module on the line, the
conveyor had the greatest potential for reducing manual
operations. The conveyor is a custom-designed fixed-
automation system that utilizes Thomson rails and standard
industrial pushbutton/PLC controls. The conveyor has been in
operation for over a decade, and in general, it works well. It
provides a large improvement over the rope and pulley type
conveyors used in several other glovebox lines at LANL.
The largest deficiency in the ARIES conveyor is
maintenance. Although the system is maintainable,
maintenance operations are often tedious and push the
boundaries of what operators can do when working through
glovebox gloves. LANL has applied the maintenance lessons
learned on this conveyor to the design of several subsequent
conveyor systems, especially the necessity for modularity and
easily replaceable large components.
3.2. NON-DESTRUCTIVE ASSAY MODULE
The NDA module, Fig. 4, is built around a 3-DOF gantry
robot. The NDA robot uses commercial x- and y-axes with a
custom LANL-designed telescoping z-axis. This custom axis
was necessary because of the limited clearance height for the
system and the need to reach a container in the calorimetry
system. The robot allows fully autonomous 24-hour operation
of the NDA system and uses four instruments to measure the
fissile content of material containers without the need for
Figure 4. Ihe ARIES NDA Module.
The NDA module uses three instruments to assay the
packaged materials. The three instruments are a heat flow
calorimeter with a gradient bridge design, a coaxial design
gamma-ray isotope detector, and a neutron multiplicity counter
(NMC). The NMC is capable of both passive neutron
measurements, and active interrogation of nuclear material
sources. NMC is the primary measurement method used in
ARIES. All three of these instruments have been refined during
the operation of the ARIES glovebox line [Wenz, 2008].
Copyright 2009 by ASME
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Harden, Troy A; Lloyd, Jane A & Turner, Cameron J. Robotics for Nuclear Material Handling at LANL:Capabilities and Needs, article, January 1, 2009; [New Mexico]. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc934538/m1/4/: accessed April 22, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.