To access the underground laboratory of the National Agency for the Management of Radioactive Waste (Andra), located in Bure, in the Meuse, you have to go through several security gates and equip yourself in particular with an emergency breathing apparatus. After five minutes of descent, here we are 500 meters underground.
There, engineers study the physical properties of rock to demonstrate that it is possible to store our most radioactive waste for thousands of years. A mission to which SCAR (Complex Robotic Assistance System), a strange robot seems familiar, can be very useful. “Thanks to the cameras we have on this robot, we can make very precise zooms”, presents Quentin Hélaine, research engineer at the Ecole des Mines de Nancy.
This robot dog has four legs, it really looks like a jaguar and therefore its first quality is to go where humans stop. “We have an area where it is dangerous to go. There may be a risk of landslides. The idea of having a robot like this is precisely not to risk a person’s life. “, continues Quentin Hélaine. This robot, which takes pictures and dozens of measurements, works in complete autonomy.
“On Sunday, he gets up from his docking station and he goes to do his automated round. He will measure what he has to measure. He comes back on his own to load himself. He leaves again to finish his mission. And on Monday morning, we arrive at the office, we have all the data on our server. “Quentin Hélaine, research engineer at the Ecole des Mines de Nancy
The pros call it Industry 4.0. It remains to be seen whether this robot will be able to work in radioactive areas. It’s a difficulty, admits Guillaume Hermand, research engineer at Andra. “The principle of radioactivity is that it very quickly damages all electronic cards, all electronic components. This is why, for example, our Japanese counterparts have difficulty sending robots to Fukushima., he explains. Despite that, we can perhaps, depending on the places we want to investigate with robots, estimate that we need robots ‘hardened’ vis-à-vis radiation “, advances the engineer. The idea is also not to damage this little gem of technology: the robot is worth nearly 100,000 euros.