Reliable robotic systems are not just essential for future operations, they also have the potential to transform the entire global nuclear industry

The nuclear industry is of great importance to the UK and its economy. Currently it is responsible for 21% of the country’s electricity and will, it is forecast, continue to account for a significant proportion of our future energy mix.

Nuclear investment

Decommissioning the UK’s legacy nuclear facilities is currently costing the Government some £3 billion a year, with estimates of the programme’s total cost over the next 120 years ranging from £90 billion to £220 billion.

Investment in nuclear new build (NNB) before 2030 is expected to be in the region of £60 billion whilst the cost of building and operating a geological disposal facility is approximately £14 billion.

Complex challenges

Whilst of great strategic importance, the nuclear industry faces a whole range of complex and diverse challenges. These are encountered in everything from decommissioning to waste management, PLEX (plant life extension), new build, small modular reactors and fusion.

Most issues arise from the extreme conditions inherent in the industry. These severely limit the involvement of people because they are extremely hazardous to health – and as they stand, robotic systems are not sufficiently advanced to handle jobs such as inspecting vessels and infrastructure, assessing the integrity and condition of equipment and characterising facilities.

Without major improvements to robotic performance and AI, many of the problems facing the industry today will remain intractable. It is vital that these improvements are made and robotic systems are deployed across decommissioning processes, new-build programmes, work to extend the life of existing nuclear power plants and the development of fusion reactors and small modular reactors.

THE ROLE OF RAIN: TO BRING ABOUT ROBOTIC STEP CHANGES

RAIN’s collaborative research programme has been established to bring about much needed step changes in fundamental robotic science – changes are vital to the future of the entire nuclear industry.

In pursuing its research, the RAIN programme will help to create a research and innovation ecosystem capable of leading the world in nuclear robotics and robotic systems for other extreme environments.

Such an ecosystem will place the UK in a very strong position to benefit from the vast worldwide nuclear need for advanced robotic systems. Decommissioning the world’s legacy nuclear facilities alone is a huge task that will cost an estimated £1 trillion. Once developed, advanced robotic systems will have a key role to play in decommissioning these plants.

Rain’s overall objectives: reduce and ultimately eliminate human entry into radioactive areas and other hazardous zones improve safety, reduce risk, lower costs, reduce timescales and make remote inspection a reality.

FACTS AND STATS

Targeting

ZERO

human entry into radioactive areas

RAIN’s robotic systems and AI will make a huge difference to nuclear Health & Safety

£11.7

billion saving
Robotic systems and AI have the potential to reduce decommissioning costs across the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s estate by approximately £11.7 billion
Up to

20%

cost and productivity improvements

RAIN’s robotic systems and AI will make significant improvements to the decommissioning process

Other

XTREME

environments

RAIN robotic systems and AI will help not just the nuclear industry but other sectors operating in extreme environments. These will include offshore operations, where over the next 25 years decommissioning costs in the North Sea alone will total £50 billion – £60 billion.

LIFE-SPAN

EXTENSIONS

for existing UK reactors
RAIN robotic systems and AI will massively improve remote inspection of nuclear facilities. This could increase the life-span of existing UK reactors and help to secure the country’s future energy provision.