LongOps: Faster and Safer decommissioning

Developing digital tools to enable faster, safer and more cost-effective decommissioning.
Robotics researchers demonstrate a haptic training simulation at an exhibition

LongOps spans remote handling for both the fusion energy and nuclear decommissioning sectors. These two sectors present some of the most challenging environments for remote handling.  

Members of the LongOps team on site at Fukushima Daiichi

There are many shared goals between these sectors: users at Fukushima, Sellafield and Joint European Torus (JET) need to develop solutions to conduct work:   

  • Over many decades, hence long-term operations 
  • Inside large, shielded spaces which contain hazardous material using remotely controlled ‘long-reach’ robotics. 

A major feature of the LongOps programme is the development of sophisticated digital twin technology – software which links virtual reality with the physical world. 

This next generation of digital tools will provide opportunities to develop decommissioning strategies and train and conduct operations in high consequence, constantly changing environments. 

The name ‘LongOps’ refers to both the long period of the operations and the long-reach booms required. 

RACE’s Haptic Training Simulator is a training tool for robotics operators working at robotics projects in challenging environments including JET, Sellafield and Fukushima. The simulator provides a low-cost and low-risk environment for robot operators to develop their skills on haptic devices. Watch this video to learn more about the device.

Research and development work

A key objective of LongOps is to lead research and development work on key themes in collaboration with industry and academia. At the heart of LongOps is a research and development portfolio worth approximately £6 million. 

Digital Mock-Ups are used to plan, assess and verify upcoming remote handling tasks and to train operators with remote handling tasks.

Designing a concept for Digital MockUps for interoperable robotic systems. • Createc + Extend Robotics 
• Generic Robotics + Numerion Software 
• Jacobs + Manufacturing Technology Centre + PA Consulting 
• Veolia Nuclear Solutions + Tree-C 
• Atkins 
Developing interoperability metrics for digital tools used in remote handling. University of Sheffield 
Developing a standardised way to integrate modular robotics systems in the form of a Generic Nuclear Robotics Architecture (GNRA). Vetronics 

Open standards can be used in software architecture to improve quality, ease of integration and obsolescence management. 

Long-reach mechanisms are a necessity of reaching into contaminated large, shielded spaces, environments found at JET, Fukushima Daiichi and Sellafield. 

Developing path planning algorithms for confined spaces. Herobots
Developing control algorithms for supressing vibrations in long-reach robotic arms. Atkins + University College London
Advanced motion planning and control of long-reach high-degree of freedom robot arms. University of Birmingham 
Modelling and control of a long flexible manipulator. University of Manchester

Training simulations are standard across the nuclear industry. A training simulator for haptic manipulators would provide low-cost training in simulation.  

Simulating haptic feedback and creating simulators for training operators of haptic manipulators. Generic Robotics
Merging haptic rendering with live sensor data. University of Manchester 
Modelling Integration of Rigid Materials with Fluids for Haptic Rendering. Generic Robotics 

Nuclear environments are always changing, and Digital Mock-Ups like those used at JET need to adapt to detect and represent these changes in real time. 

Developing nuclear datasets and annotating data for machine learning. Jacobs
Developing techniques for automated change and anomaly detection using machine learning and incorporating sensor data into digital twins. Jacobs
Developing real-time positioning and mapping software for 3D situational awareness. NavLive

Twin-arm manipulators can be used to perform dextrous tasks in environments which don’t allow human entry. It is important to understand how industry-leading manipulators perform. 

Comparing and benchmarking two industry-leading twin-arm haptic manipulators in a series of benchmarking trials. • Veolia Nuclear Solutions 
• Wallischmiller 

The most exciting part about working on LongOps is being part of the collaboration with our colleagues from TEPCO. Their use case is unique and it’s interesting to see how Next-Generation Digital Mock-ups will make a difference in interventions in harsh environments. Visiting Fukushima really brought home how our work has real world impact.

Alice Cryer

Robotics Research Engineer

LongOps is equally funded by NDA, TEPCO and UKRI.

Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA)
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)

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RACE Programmes

RACE is engineering the freedom to operate in challenging environments. To achieve our fusion engineering goals, we work internationally with end users, industry supply chains and academia.

The Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Collaboration for fusion energy, fission decommissioning and beyond.

Delivering the world’s largest windowless hot cell.

Developing, maintaining and operating the unique remote handling system at JET, the record-breaking fusion facility.

Keep up to date with what's going on at RACE