Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

International Workshop on the Use of Robotic Technologies at Nuclear Facilities


The purpose of the workshop was to inform, discuss, and assess past, present, and anticipated future uses of robotic technologies in safety applications and activities at nuclear facilities. A technical exchange of experiences and information related to the use of mobile and stationary robots in challenging environments at nuclear and non-nuclear industrial facilities that are hazardous to humans took place. Examples of such challenging environments include environments with extreme temperatures, pressures, or radiation fields or environments that are space-confined or oxygen-limited. Examples of the use of robotic technologies in non-nuclear applications that could potentially be adapted to nuclear applications include activities such as extraterrestrial exploration, deep-sea surveys, and firefighting.

The workshop was designed to facilitate technical exchange of lessons learned from historic nuclear applications and experiences (e.g., Three-Mile Island, Sellafield, and Fukushima Daiichi); ongoing research; and other relevant applications(e.g., NASA's Martian Exploration Rovers – Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity).

Audience: Designers, developers, operators, and users of robotic technologies at nuclear facilities and other challenging and hazardous environments as well as robotics engineers from industry, academia, research institutes, and government agencies.

Workshop Objectives

  • Facilitate sharing of information between government agencies, industry, and academia on the present safe and reliable use of robotic technology for monitoring, sampling, and other surveillance functions for a range of environmental conditions within critical infrastructures.
  • Seek ideas and insights on possible ways to develop robotics to execute complex tasks for assessing structures, systems, and components during post-event conditions; reporting conditions within critical infrastructures; and assuring both worker safety and facility safety performance.
  • Identify strategies for using robotic technologies to detect, examine, and recover radioactive materials such as fuel rods from nuclear facilities, for reducing exposures to workers and the public, and protecting the environment.
  • Determine what current robotic technologies used in non-nuclear applications could be adapted for use in nuclear facility applications.
  • Establish realistic plans to test both the robots and their operators for a range of scenarios at nuclear facilities (e.g.,construction, startup, normal operations, low power and shutdown, and decommissioning).
  • Discuss the development of standards used to evaluate the performance of robots, their implementation, and their integration with systems at nuclear facilities to avoid compromising the operability of safety-related plant structures, systems, and components.
  • Identify ground-breaking opportunities related to robotic technologies for the purpose of improving safety in the nuclear industry.

Key Outcomes Sought

  • Knowledge:
    • Information on the current use of robotic technologies at nuclear facilities.
    • A better understanding of the state of robotics and remote systems in other challenging environments and their potential applications at nuclear facilities.
    • Introduction to existing databases or compendiums of robots and remote systems for nuclear applications.
    • Ideas or strategies for enhancing existing databases or compendiums with quantifiable and verifiable performance data.
  • Development, Testing and Evaluation:
    • A proposed approach (or approaches) for using consensus standard test methods to assess performance to guide development,procurement, and training for nuclear applications. Representative activities include:
      • Host competitions, challenges, and technology incubators.
      • Identify best-in-class contributing technologies(e.g., sensors for non-destructive evaluation, mobility platforms,manipulators, material samplers or other tools).
      • Iterate proposed solutions through validated simulations of standard test methods and mockups.
      • Conduct comprehensive testing with standard test methods to establish reliability and gain confidence in robotic performance.
      • Deploy proposed solutions into physical mockups and test beds.
  • Adoption and Implementation:
    • A proposed end-user strategy for setting thresholds of capabilities (measured within standard test methods) necessary for deployment.
    • A proposed regulatory approach for technical review of strategies for integrating technology, standards, training, and regulations to address implementation.
  • Summary of the key insights drawn from presentations and panel discussions


 The workshop was co-sponsored and convened by: 

  • Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development/ Nuclear Energy Agency
  • U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Offices of Nuclear Regulatory Research, and Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards
  • U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Intelligent Systems Division
  • U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Environmental Management
  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Science and Technology Directorate, Office of Standards
  • United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA)
  • Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC)

Collaborating Standards Development Organizations:

  • American Nuclear Society
  • ASTM International 
  • IEEE Robotics and Automation Society
Created October 1, 2015, Updated January 5, 2017