Going Where No Man Can Go

by Paul R. Bengel, Proj. Mgr.; Bechtel National, Inc., Oak Ridge, TN,
David L. Geifer, Doctorate Student; Pennsylvania State Univ., University Park, PA,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1991, Vol. 61, Issue 8, Pg. 55-57

Document Type: Feature article


After the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island Unit 2 in Harrisburg, Pa., some areas of the reactor plant were too contaminated for workers to survey, much less clean. The article describes how a group of sophisticated remote-controlled robots was developed and used to characterize and decontaminate the hazardous areas in an 11-year recovery effort (completed in 1989) that cost almost $1 billion. The remote equipment program at TMI-2 resulted in much more than a reduction of radiation exposure to plant personnel and efficient cleanup. Although driven by need, the program succeeded in creating a robotic work force never before equalled. Designers applied lessons learned from each effort to succeeding designs with a resultant improvement in both reliability and sophistication.

Subject Headings: Robotics | Accidents | Islands | Pollution | Labor | Equipment and machinery | Radiation | Employees

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