Office of Environmental Management

New Idaho Site Robotic Technology Adds Muscle, Enhances Safety

October 17, 2016

You are here

Waste awaiting retrieval at AMWTP’s Transuranic Storage Area Retrieval Enclosure.

Waste awaiting retrieval at AMWTP’s Transuranic Storage Area Retrieval Enclosure.

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – Thanks to new robotic gear, EM’s Idaho Site is better armed to safely and compliantly handle the cleanup complex’s transuranic radioactive waste.

   A safe, reliable and accessible tool for opening waste drums and boxes, the new robotic arm began operating this month at the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project’s (AMWTP) Treatment Facility.

   It’s the first of two arms being installed, replacing the facility’s original robotic arms used to examine, sort and treat much of the legacy waste at AMWTP in the past 12 years.

   The new arms are intended to create a safer work environment, enhance productivity and reduce maintenance costs by an estimated 80 percent. In 2015, maintenance personnel entered the facility’s highly contaminated boxlines more than 500 times, each time at a cost of at least $3,600. Crews also report the new arm is easier on their hands and wrists.

   Updating AMWTP’s capabilities is timely as retrieval crews remove the last of the waste containers stored at the site for nearly a half century.

   The crews currently deal with the most challenging degraded containers. Experience from retrieving more than 64,000 cubic meters of stored waste has helped them prepare to remove the last 550 cubic meters.

   In preparing for the final retrieval work, crews reported the need for equipment for increased ventilation to reduce potential contamination levels. Their suggestions led EM to develop a system of pulleys and rails to move a newly designed ventilation hood and hose inside the inner contamination enclosure, a large, movable tent for seriously degraded drums and boxes. The system increases air flow and prevents the crews from sustaining strains and sprains caused by moving the ventilation equipment.

   AMWTP’s retrieval operations are scheduled for completion by May 2017.