[ RadSafe ] NS reports Bomb-disposal robot scoops up radioactive source

Dawson, Fred Mr Fred.Dawson199 at mod.uk
Tue Dec 20 03:09:00 CST 2005

Bomb-disposal robot scoops up radioactive source

A robot designed for bomb disposal has rolled to the rescue of a US
military lab and fixed a jammed radiation source that was too powerful
for humans to approach.
The Gamma Irradiation Facility at White Sands Missile Range in New
Mexico uses a cobalt-60 radiation source the size of a salt shaker to
test how electronic components will hold up under high radiation.
Normally, technicians use air to blow the source out of a shielded
chamber and through a metal tube, then reverse the process when
finished. But in late October, the source got stuck in the tube, and no
amount of air would budge it. 
The radiation from the source would be lethal to a human in just 30
seconds, and was too strong to be approached even in a protective suit.
So White Sands officials called Sandia National Laboratory in
Albuquerque, New Mexico, to see if their robot could help. "We called
these guys and they came down and worked their magic," says Larry
Furrow, a White Sands spokesman.
Hope on a rope
Sandia brought in a 270-kilogram bomb-disposal robot, dubbed Mighty
Mouse, that rolls on treads and has a long articulated arm. At first the
robot could not get the cylinder unstuck, and then after 90 minutes its
electronics began to fail, and it had to be hauled out of the room with
a rope. 
The next day the Sandia team made trips to local DIY stores and modified
the robot's arm so that it could unscrew a metal plate and get at the
radioactive cylinder from a different direction. Eventually the robot
cleared the tube and the radiation source was blown back into its
Gamma radiation does not leave metal radioactive, so the robot was not
permanently damaged and has since been restored to full working order, a
Sandia spokesman said. Furrow said the Gamma Irradiation Facility is
also now operating normally

Fred Dawson

Fred Dawson
Health Physics Assistant Director & Team Leader
Directorate of Safety & Claims
6-D-30 MOD Main Building
Whitehall, LONDON  SW1A 2HB
email     dsc-hpad at mod.uk

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