The RAICo1 facility in Whitehaven will be the first in a series of robotics and artificial intelligence collaboration hubs across the UK. This national scale was highlighted this week when the facility linked up with colleagues hundreds of miles away in Bristol to stage a “virtual handover”. RAICo1 is not yet fully finished, but it is already home to important work that will benefit the Sellafield site.
Using robots to work remotely is a fundamental part of our future. Last week a delegation from Japanese company TEPCO visited to see the work being done at RAICo1 in this area. Tuesday was a further opportunity to show some of the opportunities robots can bring. The facility is on a headland above Whitehaven harbour. It will be a collaboration hub, the work there developing technology to decommission and make safe nuclear sites like Sellafield.
Sellafield’s Chief Operating Officer Rebecca Weston said:
“We know we can deliver the UK’s nuclear decommissioning challenge safer, faster and at less cost by using robotics and AI. RAICo1 is a real step towards achieving that. It brings together the owners of the challenges with the people who have the ideas and technology that can solve them.”
The facility has already had some success in speeding up projects through off-site collaboration. It offers the ability to test tech in environments that mirror those on the site, such as gloveboxes and water tanks. But its effect will be felt far beyond the Sellafield fence.
Head of robotics and innovation at Sellafield Rav Chunilal added:
“A big factor is where RAICo1 is situated, in Whitehaven itself, at the heart of our community. We see it bringing in skilled people, but we also see it as being fundamental to developing skills in the area too. The work that done at RAICo1 won’t be just for Sellafield but will benefit the whole region.”
RAICo1 is a joint initiative developed by Sellafield Ltd, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, UK Atomic Energy Authority and Manchester University.
Rob Buckingham, Director of RACE, UKAEA’s robotics facility, said:
“UKAEA and NDA need remotely operated tools that are efficient, reliable, cost-effective and re-usable. The next generation of robotics and smart machines will deliver our mission faster, cheaper and at lower risk. Learning together, in collaboration to avoid duplication, has to be the best way.”