Automated robotics system for nuclear waste handling (hardware and software)

William Michael O'Donnell, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


Hazardous materials handling involves the use of robotics manipulators, which are controlled by operators outside a sealed environment. The operator's reduced vision and decreased dexterity causes slower job performance and fatigue, which ultimately leads to mistakes. These mistakes can be dangerous, expensive, and time consuming to clean up. Thus, the goal of this thesis is to lay the foundation for a safety system that could be implemented in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plan (WIPP) at Argonne National Labs West (ANLW). The safety system should both reduce operator error and prevent costly mistakes; The system consists of a computer and accompanying software placed between the control unit and the remote manipulator. The computer checks for collisions with the workcell and other objects defined in the computer model. If no collisions are predicted, normal master/slave operation continues; otherwise, the computer takes control until the operator guides the manipulator to a safe position.