Office of Environmental Management

Scientist Honored for Leadership in Developing Robots to Support EM’s Cleanup

December 4, 2018

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Heather Jones, a senior project scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, stands with one of the Radpiper robots.
Heather Jones, a senior project scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, stands with one of the Radpiper robots.

PHOENIX – An EM-sponsored scientist who helped develop robots to analyze residual uranium material in piping at two EM sites has been selected for the 2019 Waste Management Symposia (WMS) Young Professional Award.

   Heather Jones, a senior project scientist at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, was recognized for her scientific and engineering expertise, innovative spirit, and problem-solving prowess in the EM/CMU team’s design, development, and deployment of the Pipe Crawling Activity Measurements System. Central to the system are the autonomous and automated Radpiper robots set to take measurements of residual uranium holdup inside process pipes at EM’s two former uranium enrichment plants in Portsmouth, Ohio and Paducah, Kentucky.

   “Dr. Jones’ essential contributions to the Radpiper project have developed a new in-pipe robotic measuring capability that has advanced the field of decommissioning,” said Jud Lilly, federal project director for decontamination and decommissioning of Portsmouth process buildings for EM’s Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office. “This first-of-a-kind system will facilitate decommissioning of the Portsmouth and Paducah gaseous diffusion plants, and the system also holds promise of additional related applications and breakthroughs elsewhere in our industry.”

   Jones helped lead CMU’s Robotics Institute to develop a pair of robotic pipe crawlers with the ability to move autonomously inside miles of pipes at the plants to detect residual uranium material. She worked closely with EM and cleanup contractor Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth.

Heather Jones is shown second from left with other Carnegie Mellon University roboticists at work on the Radpiper. Also pictured, from left, are Siri Maley, Kenji Yonekawa, and David Kohanbash.
Heather Jones is shown second from left with other Carnegie Mellon University roboticists at work on the Radpiper. Also pictured, from left, are Siri Maley, Kenji Yonekawa, and David Kohanbash.

   The Radpiper combines robotics, radiation and radioactivity measurement, high-resolution photo and video, data management technologies, and other abilities to evaluate radiation levels from inside the pipe surfaces.

   The multitasking robots will lower risks for workers who would otherwise need to conduct the evaluations with handheld instruments, wearing protective gear and using lifts to reach overhead pipes.

   EM estimates the system could save more than $50 million at the former Paducah plant and several million dollars at the former Portsmouth plant by accelerating characterization of uranium deposits.

   Jones has written several technical papers related to the Radpiper. She presented on robotics at the 44th-annual WMS in March 2018. Radpiper was among the many technologies highlighted and displayed at that event.

   WMS debuted the Young Professional Award at its 2017 conference to recognize young professionals who contribute to advancements in fields such as radioactive material management and decommissioning. WMS will present the award to Jones during the 2019 WMS in Phoenix in March 2019.

 

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