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Robotic Arm Back to Work at Hanford

June 1, 2012 - 12:00pm

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The Mobile Arm Retrieval System (MARS), the largest robotic arm ever inserted into a Department of Energy waste storage tank, is back at work in one of Hanford’s underground storage tanks where it has removed nearly 133,000 gallons of waste

The Mobile Arm Retrieval System (MARS), the largest robotic arm ever inserted into a Department of Energy waste storage tank, is back at work in one of Hanford’s underground storage tanks where it has removed nearly 133,000 gallons of waste

In December 2010, workers cut a 55-inch diameter hole in the top of one of Hanford’s single-shell tanks in order to accommodate the MARS technology. The core and its associated cutting equipment were removed from the tank and encased in a yellow plastic sleeve to prevent the potential spread of contamination.

In December 2010, workers cut a 55-inch diameter hole in the top of one of Hanford’s single-shell tanks in order to accommodate the MARS technology. The core and its associated cutting equipment were removed from the tank and encased in a yellow plastic sleeve to prevent the potential spread of contamination.

The Mobile Arm Retrieval System (MARS), the largest robotic arm ever inserted into a Department of Energy waste storage tank, is back at work in one of Hanford’s underground storage tanks where it has removed nearly 133,000 gallons of waste
In December 2010, workers cut a 55-inch diameter hole in the top of one of Hanford’s single-shell tanks in order to accommodate the MARS technology. The core and its associated cutting equipment were removed from the tank and encased in a yellow plastic sleeve to prevent the potential spread of contamination.

RICHLAND, Wash. – A remotely operated robotic arm is back at work retrieving waste from one of Hanford’s underground waste storage tanks.

Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS), the tank operations contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management (EM) Office of River Protection (ORP), has used the Mobile Arm Retrieval System (MARS) to retrieve nearly 133,000 gallons of waste from the tank — more than 52 percent of its estimated volume — in only seven total weeks of operation, including more than 65,000 gallons since MARS resumed operations on May 23.

The largest robotic arm ever inserted into a DOE waste storage tank, MARS is just one of many technology-savvy robotic devices used across the EM complex to advance the world’s largest nuclear cleanup. For example, the West Valley Demonstration Project in New York has employed a robotic arm — equipped with a set of jaws, 600-pound grip force, reciprocating saw, impact wrench and hydraulic shears capable of cutting pipes up to 3 feet — to prepare for facility decontamination. The Savannah River Site in South Carolina has called on robots affectionately named Tizzy, Frankie and G.I. Joe to remove waste in areas that have high radioactivity.

MARS is a telescoping arm mounted on a mast installed in the center of the tank. It uses high-pressure nozzles to break up the waste and sweep it toward a pump for removal. The arm extends outward more than 37 feet from the central mast in order to reach waste clinging onto the tank walls and its pivoting head helps it navigate around potential obstructions in the tank. It uses a high-pressure stream of water or recycled liquid waste to blast away the hard-to-remove material.

MARS increases the pace and efficiency with which waste can be removed from Hanford’s aging single-shell tanks. The suite of tools MARS is equipped with and its close-range ability to attack the waste make the system effective and efficient for some of the hard-to-retrieve waste. Earlier this year, the MARS project was nominated for an award by a national engineering trade magazine for its ingenuity in dealing with Hanford’s stubborn legacy waste.

In December 2010, workers cut a 55-inch diameter hole in the top of one of Hanford’s single-shell tanks in order to accommodate the MARS technology. The core and its associated cutting equipment were removed from the tank and encased in a yellow plastic sleeve to prevent the potential spread of contamination.

The retrieval system was working as anticipated when an issue regarding the potential for waste freezing inside the transfer lines shut down work in October. The issue was resolved in December, but a pump providing liquid waste from the double-shell receiving tank to the MARS unit stopped working and had to be replaced. Crews replaced the pump in March, paving the path to the MARS restart. The bulk of the waste is expected to be removed from the tank later this summer.

Meanwhile, waste retrieval continues in three other Hanford single-shell tanks and construction is underway to prepare three more tanks for waste retrieval. The increase in pace is consistent with ORP’s commitment to meet its regulatory milestones of having waste safely removed from 16 Hanford tanks by 2014.

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