DOE to unveil robot to help repair crumbling Chornobyl reactor

The Energy Department today plans to unveil a robot that was developed using software from NASA's Mars Pathfinder and other technologies invented under federal research grants that will be used to help repair the crumbling Chornobyl nuclear reactor site.

Deputy Energy Secretary T.J. Glauthier will demonstrate the robot, called "Pioneer," outside the Ukrainian reactor, but the device will not be put into regular use immediately.

In March 1998, the Energy Department and NASA, along with university and industry scientists, successfully tested the computer system for the first time. (See FCW Web exclusive, "NASA, Energy help Ukraine avoid nuclear disaster", March 27, 1998.)

The robot was built to map the inside of the concrete sarcophagus that encases the reactor to guide future repair crews in their cleanup of the site. The radiation level in the leaking structure is so high that it is not safe for humans to spend long periods of time inside.

The $3 million project was developed by RedZone Robotics Inc., Pittsburgh, Pa., along with a team of researchers from DOE, NASA, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Iowa. Silicon Graphics Inc. donated workstations that will be used to analyze and create maps from the data the robot collects.

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