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Robot staff for nuclear power plants.

Robot staff for nuclear power plants

Someday a nuclear power plant may have a staff of robots, each designed for a specific function but flexible enough to take over other tasks when needed. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), a utilities-sponsored research organization based in Palo Alto, Calif., has introduced the first potential member of that staff.

"Surveyor,' a brightly colored, remotely controlled robot about the size of a giant tortoise, is designed to inspect equipment, read meters and survey for radiation. With an extendable arm attachment, the 350-pound, tanklike robot can also reach into areas too confined for human work.

Developed for EPRI by Advanced Research Development Corp. in Columbia, Md., the robot has been tested in several nuclear power plants. So far, however, the machine has not ventured into radiation areas because the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has yet to determine the conditions under which robots can be used in such areas.

Researchers are also working on a second robot staff member. For EPRI, Odetics, Inc., of Anaheim, Calif., is developing a walking robot that would be able to thread mazes, step over obstacles and squeeze through narrow gaps (SN: 7/6/85, p. 9). With its great strength-to-weight ratio, this robot would serve as a heavy-duty maintenance worker.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Mar 29, 1986
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