스팟, 체르노빌에서 일 거든다 VIDEO: Boston Dynamics' Spot Is Helping Chernobyl Move Towards Safe Decommissioning

Boston Dynamics' Spot Is Helping Chernobyl Move Towards Safe Decommissioning

Legged robots are uniquely qualified for sensing around what's left of Chernobyl's Reactor 4

By Evan Ackerman

In terms of places where you absolutely want a robot to go instead of you, what remains of the utterly destroyed Chernobyl Reactor 4 should be very near the top of your list. The reactor, which suffered a catastrophic meltdown in 1986, has been covered up in almost every way possible in an effort to keep its nuclear core contained. But eventually, that nuclear material is going to have to be dealt with somehow, and in order to do that, it’s important to understand which bits of it are just really bad, and which bits are the actual worst. And this is where Spot is stepping in to help.

Spot robot at ChernobylPhoto: University of Bristol


스팟, 체르노빌에서 일 거든다

    완전히 파괴된 체르노빌 1986년 대참사를 겪은 이 원자로는 핵코어를 억제하기 위한 노력으로 가능한 거의 모든 방법으로 은폐되어 왔다. 하지만 결국 그 핵물질은 어떻게든 다루어져야 할 것이고, 그러기 위해서는 어떤 부분이 정말 나쁜 것인지, 어떤 부분이 진짜 최악인지를 이해하는 것이 중요하다. 그리고 이것이 스팟이 도와주기 위해 발을 들여놓는 곳이다.

스팟이 지나가고 있는 큰 공터는 원자로 4의 왼쪽 바로 옆에 있다. 참사 6개월 만에 4호기는 모든 고약한 핵연료가 이미 가지고 있던 것보다 더 많이 새어나가지 않도록 하기 위해 콘크리트와 강철로 만들어진 석관에 덮였고, 지금도 '고도로 오염된 먼지 30톤, 우라늄과 플루토늄 16톤, 방사성 용암 200톤'을 함유하고 있다. 그 후 10년 동안 석관은 서서히 악화되었고, 영상에서 볼 수 있는 그 거대한 강철 지지 빔이 추가되었음에도 불구하고, 1990년대 후반에는 가능한 한 오랫동안 그것을 안정시키기 위해 전체에 거대한 구조물을 세우기로 결정되었다.

4번 원자로는 이제 거대한 뉴 세이프 리큐브(NSC) 구조 안에 아늑하게 들어섰고, 그 구조물은 결국 원자로에 남아 있는 것을 안전하게 분해할 수 있게 될 것이라는 생각이다, 비록 아무도 그렇게 할 수 있을지 확신하지 못하지만 말이다. 이것은 단지 격납건물 내부의 영역이 인간으로부터 로봇들이 물려받을 수 있는 좋은 기회를 많이 제공한다는 것을 말하려는 것이다.

이 특별한 스팟은 영국 원자력청 소유로, 핵에너지의 로봇과 인공지능(AIRIN) 이니셔티브와 국립 핵로보틱스 센터의 도움으로 러시아로 보내졌다. 영국 브리스톨 대학의 연구원이자 국립 핵 사용자 시설의 핫로보틱스 시설의 일부인 데이브 멕슨 스미스 박사는 스팟의 모험에 동행할 만큼 운이 좋은 과학자 중 한 명이었다. 멕슨-스미스는 센서 개발을 전문으로 하고 있으며, 그는 스팟에 지도용 페이로드 외에 시준된 방사선 센서를 장착했다. 메그슨-스미스는 "우리는 실제로 체르노빌 발전소의 전면 벽에서 나오는 방사능의 지도를 만들었다"고 말했고, 감마선 광자수 비율의 지도를 보여주는 이 사진을 공유할 수 있었다.

황기철 콘페이퍼 에디터

Ki Chul Hwang Conpaper editor curator

edited by kcontents

The big open space that Spot is walking through is right next to what’s left of Reactor 4. Within six months of the disaster, Reactor 4 was covered in a sarcophagus made of concrete and steel to try and keep all the nasty nuclear fuel from leaking out more than it already had, and it still contains “30 tons of highly contaminated dust, 16 tons of uranium and plutonium, and 200 tons of radioactive lava.” Oof. Over the next 10 years, the sarcophagus slowly deteriorated, and despite the addition of that gigantic network of steel support beams that you can see in the video, in the late 1990s it was decided to erect an enormous building over the entire mess to try and stabilize it for as long as possible.

via youtube

edited by kcontents

Reactor 4 is now snugly inside the massive New Safe Confinement (NSC) structure, and the idea is that eventually, the structure will allow for the safe disassembly of what’s left of the reactor, although nobody is quite sure how to do that. This is all just to say that the area inside of the containment structure offers a lot of good opportunities for robots to take over from humans.

This particular Spot is owned by the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority, and was packed off to Russia with the assistance of the Robotics and Artificial Intelligence in Nuclear (RAIN) initiative and the National Centre for Nuclear Robotics. Dr. Dave Megson-Smith, who is a researcher at the University of Bristol, in the U.K., and part of the Hot Robotics Facility at the National Nuclear User Facility, was one of the scientists lucky enough to accompany Spot on its adventure. Megson-Smith specializes in sensor development, and he equipped Spot with a collimated radiation sensor in addition to its mapping payload. “We actually built a map of the radiation coming out of the front wall of Chernobyl power plant as we were in there with it,” Megson-Smith told us, and was able to share this picture, which shows a map of gamma photon count rate:

Chernobyl radiation mapped by Spot robotImage: University of Bristol

Researchers equipped Spot with a collimated radiation sensor and use one of the data readings (gamma photon count rate) to create a map of the radiation coming out of the front wall of the Chernobyl power plant.

So what’s the reason you’d want to use a very expensive legged robot to wander around what looks like a very flat and robot friendly floor? As it turns out, the floor is very dusty in there, and a priority inside the NSC is to keep dust down as much as possible, since the dust is radioactive and gets on everything and is consequently the easiest way for radioactivity to escape the NSC. “You want to minimize picking up material, so we consider the total contact surface area,” says Megson-Smith. “If you use a legged system rather than a wheeled or tracked system, you have a much smaller footprint and you disturb the environment a lot less.” While it’s nice that Spot is nimble and can climb stairs and stuff, tracked vehicles can do that as well, so in this case, the primary driving factor of choosing a robot to work inside Chernobyl is minimizing those contact points. 

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