Pit viper cuts dose

1 March 2002

The Pit Viper is a versatile robotic arm and remote video monitoring station that allows workers to rehabilitate contaminated pits at Hanford, reducing dose rates by 75%.

Hanford has 600 equipment pits that need to be cleaned up before vitrification begins. The pits measure 3m by 4m in area and are about 3m deep.

Pit work exposes handlers to more radiation than any other task at the Hanford tank farms, where nearly 54 million gallons of highly radioactive waste are stored in 177 leaking tanks. The Hanford laboratory recently demonstrated a prototype of the Pit Viper, which it plans to put into operation in the summer. The three-joystick control board and four monitors in a control trailer allow staff to operate the arm from a distance of about 70m. It can lift up to 70kg.

There are no plans to use the Pit Viper at other Energy Department sites, but the lab could modify the design if other sites saw potential use. Developing the prototype cost $1 million.

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