WRPS and WSU Tri-Cities introduce new technology to Hanford

RICHLAND, WA- Washington River Protection Solutions and Washington State University Tri-Cities have partnered together to introduce a rover to the Hanford site. 

The rover is a remote-controlled vehicle about the size of a child's wagon.

WRPS designed it and WSU Tri-Cities helped with the technology behind it.

The whole idea is save time and money on cleanup and keeping workers out of the more hazardous areas of the Hanford site.

After two years in the works, this month it will go to work at Hanford's tank farms, which hold millions of gallons of radioactive and chemical wastes left over from decades of plutonium production.

Alex Pappas, WRPS Project Lead, along with his team have designed the rover to do just that. 

"It's putting distance between the person doing the job and the hazard. Being able to create a tool where it's going to be easier for my team to prepare and go do a job in the farm. If we wanted to go do a a pre-job inspection this can be a tool our team uses to go in and save time," Pappas said. 

Not only saving time but working to get clean-up projects started with less risk. 

"A user can say hey I need to visually inspect these things in a farm once a week... I can just set up a mission for it and every week I can download that mission and review without having to go out there and suit up and expose myself to the hazards," Pappas said. 

Jason Vitali, WRPS Chief technology officer, said users can control the rover with a laptop or on their cell phones from a distance. 

"We're using state of the art technology to be able to go out there and collect data where we don't have information today," Vitali said. 

Workers in the tank farms will be able to use the rover to help shorten their time in the field. By not replacing human workers, the rover will make conditions safer for them to work. 

"So before we send workers out into the field we can start collecting it... understanding the impact from a hazard assessment standpoint and keep them as safe as possible," Vitali said. 

The rover features many features including a 360-degree camera, air sampling, wireless charging, and transmission of information to "home base". 

Vitali said so far the technology has been working up to standard. 

"It's actually finding all of the obstacles that have come up its working around those so it's giving us confidence that when we go out into the farms it will keep the farm safe and it will give us the information that we're looking for," Vitali said. 

The WRPS team said more rovers are not completely out of the future. 

"I think the sky is the limit really with these so as we identify new needs for the workers and different things the robots are capable of we hope to have multiple robots in each of the farms at some point," Vitali said. 

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