Heather Jones, a senior project scientist in the Robotics Institute, received the Young Professional Award at the 2019 Waste Management Symposia (WMS) in Phoenix in recognition of her work developing robots to detect residual uranium in nuclear weapons complex piping.
Jones, who earned her Ph.D. in robotics in 2016, made significant contributions to the design, development and deployment of the Pipe Crawling Activity Measurements System for the U.S. Department of Energy. That system includes RadPiper, which the Robotics Institute delivered to DOE last year to aid in decommissioning its former uranium enrichment plant in Piketon, Ohio.
The WMS Young Professional Award recognizes a professional under age 36 for distinguished contributions to the advancement of radioactive waste and radioactive material management. It was presented to Jones at the symposia March 5.
The RadPiper robots crawl autonomously through pipes, where they can measure radiation levels more accurately than is possible with external methods. Sections of pipe containing hazardous levels of uranium can then be removed for special handling. The robots significantly reduce hazards to workers, who otherwise must perform external measurements by hand, garbed in protective gear and using lifts or scaffolding to reach elevated pipes.
DOE estimates the robots could save $50 million in decommissioning the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon and a similar plant in Paducah, Kentucky.