Scottish water quality engineering firm Panton McLeod has joined a conference of robotics experts to discuss how its specialist robots can be adapted to work in the nuclear industry.
The Borders-based firm, which repairs, cleans and disinfects structures that store potable drinking water across the UK, took its innovative cleaning machines to the Remote Technology Exhibition in Sellafield this month to see if they could be adapted to work in nuclear power stations.
The company was invited to appear alongside some of the UK’s leading robotics pioneers at conference, which was set up to showcase technology used in businesses across the UK – including bomb disposal robots, search & rescue machines, humanoid simulators and remotely-operated excavating machines.
Panton McLeod displayed its pair of pioneering underwater robots – the ROV and the VR600 – at the event and showed how the machines are used to help inspect and clean underground tanks known as service reservoirs, where drinking water is stored before being sent to customers’ taps.
And the firm joined experts from the nuclear power industry to discuss whether the machines could be adapted to work inside water tanks and ponds within some of the UK’s power stations.
Panton McLeod is the only firm in the UK which uses the two machines, and has operated them on numerous jobs for some of the UK’s largest water companies, including Scottish Water and Severn Trent Water.
Paul Henderson, Panton McLeod’s operations director, said: “There were some of the leading names in robotics at this conference, so it was a real eye opener for us.
“These two robots that we use have become an integral part of our work and we are pioneering them in the UK’s water industry. We were delighted to be able to join Klas Lange from Weda Sweden, the company that manufactures the larger cleaning machine, to showcase the work that we perform with them.
“One of the biggest advantages about the robots is that water companies do not have to take their storage tanks off-line when they are being cleaned, which means we are able to save them valuable time and money. It is also a very environmentally-friendly service, as we do not waste or contaminate or waste any of the water in the tanks.
“We found that many of the delegates at this conference were very interested in our technology we even discussed ways of potentially using them to help clean the water tanks in nuclear power plants.
“Of course, we would have to build brand new robots in order to do this – as, we would also have to ensure that any work within the nuclear industry was completely separate from our work with the water industry. Under no circumstances would any of our drinking water equipment ever come in contact with contaminated ponds and basins in power plants.
“However, the nuclear proposal is an interesting possibility and I’m sure we will look forward to discussing whether the technology could be adapted in the future.”
Panton McLeod, which has offices in the Scottish Borders, Nottingham and the United States, is one of the best-known names in the water industry, working with the biggest companies on the inspection, cleaning and repair of drinking water structures.
The firm’s VR600 robot is a large-tracked machine that is manoeuvred along the floor of a service reservoir and cleans away any sediment or impurities in the water. It can also be used to inspect the condition of the water tanks, including checking the walls and pipework for corrosion or damage.
The ROV unit is a smaller robot that can be manouvered like a submarine through the water in a service reservoir. It is used to inspect the interior of the tank and check for damage or leaks.
Both machines remotely operated and fitted with camera and lighting equipment, which allows staff controlling the sub to assess the interior of the tanks. They are also meticulously treated to ensure they can be safely used in the public water supply, and Panton McLeod conducts rigorous tests before and after each inspection.
Source:BC Restoration Services