back to article When humanity perishes in nuclear fire, the University of Essex's radiation-resistant robots will inherit the Earth

The University of Essex has secured £600,000 in funding to develop radiation-resistant robots for use in nuclear facilities. The cash injection, which will be directed to the British university's School of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, came from the National Centre for Nuclear Robotics (NCNR). The University of …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Hasn't this already been researched ?

    We have satellites in geostationary orbit that already have to be hardened to function properly. And that giant open nuclear furnace in the sky creates a much harsher environment than a functioning nuclear power station.

    All the computer equipment on the ISS is hardened, if I'm not mistaken, and it is well inside the Earth's magnetosphere.

    I agree that we haven't yet created nuclear plant robot butlers, but I would have thought that the process of hardening electrical equipment didn't need that much research any more.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Hasn't this already been researched ?

      Very different problems.

      In space (at least LEO) you have a relatively low flux (arrival rate) of high energy charged particles. You get memory bit flips, and occasionally localised hardware damage.

      In a reactor you get a high flux of lower energy heavy particles that cause structure damage. ECC doesn't help if the ECC checking circuit is smashed to atoms.

      This work is specifically for image sensors which are most sensitive for a bunch of reasons.

      They are large area, so chances of a hit are high, the silicon is tuned to be sensitive to low signal levels (to detect faint light) and you can't map around a dead image region in software.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Hasn't this already been researched ?

      a much harsher environment than a functioning nuclear power station

      Non-functioning ones like Chernobyl and Fukushima might be more of a challenge.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: Hasn't this already been researched ?

        Non-functioning ones like Chernobyl and Fukushima might be more of a challenge.

        You can have either high intensity particles which have a short half life, or a low intensity particles with a long half life.

        The problem in Chernobyl is massive quantities of long lived particles randomly strewn over the area which is over a long term harmful for people rather than a massive level of high intensity radiation in one place.

        The level of high energy particles that you could get inside a functioning reactor is going to be a lot higher than one that's been dead for 30 years.

  2. esherrill


    Anyone remember the scene in the HBO miniseries where the robot essentially died immediately upon being put on the roof? Something like this would’ve been very helpful for that. Also for the Japanese power plants in Fukushima that succumbed to the tsunami in 2011.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Chernobyl

      I actually remember the 7 or 8 robots Japan tried at Fukushima and they all pretty much keeled over or couldn't handle the mess and wreckage inside.

      It was a case of going from "this is perfect for robots!" to "nah, we tried that, and it was a total shitshow"

  3. Glenn Amspaugh

    Poor replicating robots just going around building one power station after another, until surface of Earth is covered. Battersea plants as far as the eye can see!

    I'll see myself out.

  4. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge


    Surely the answer is trained Cockroach Swarms?

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: Cockroaches?

      We're not going in unless

      A. The pay is very good

      B. The truck carrying the raid is gone for when we come out.

  5. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Fiddling while Rome burns ... 'twas ever the case when history repeat itself, but it doesn't rhyme.

    To lessen this, computer systems that enter radioactive environments are "hardened" to increase their lifespan and mitigate the risk of single-event error (SEE) glitches.

    In the documentation, BAE also claimed it can adapt to SEE glitches at a loss of just 1 per cent of the chip's processing power.

    A novel claim of reasonably acceptable percentile loss made in what is considered generations ago in the fields that yield and wield and shield power and energy with hardened integrated circuits/processing units/virtual machinery but which if proferred again for the realities of today, confronted and attacked as they are by a constant persistent penetrating onslaught of myriad tsunami SEE waves against systems administrations defences*, would be rightly dismissed as lunatic nonsensical verging on the criminally negligent and insanely delusional ie woefully and painfully over-optimistic.

    And have you not all been already advised on similar hardened matters regarding future SEE glitches in order to more fully prepare yourselves for the unavoidable emergent consequences. To imagine and then to further think one can successfully escape to an untouched and untouchable environment is novel and similarly unreasonably woeful and painfully optimistic. Some might even go further full metal jacket and venture bat shit crazy, and they wouldn't be wrong whenever so easily proven right.

    Does anyone want to suggest provision of anything else to improve and strengthen and harden onward progress/Deep See Operations veering towards Alien Intervention full to overflowing with Almighty Interludes? Greater IntelAIgent Games ACTivity is always warmly welcomed and enjoyed for testing and fitting proper use ……. the uses of which are many, extremely exciting and beautifully varied.

    The posit here being that it certainly is, and on ACTive AIdDeployment in Future Development with Engaging Sources for Almighty Weaponed Environments ….. Heavenly Safe Havens …. Granted and Granting Absolute Power and Colossal Energy to Global Command AI Control in Controlling Command with Virtual Communications to Assisting IntelAIgent Community Headquarters.

    Is it possibly an Affiliate of Holy Grails, and a SMARTR Variety Variant of the Infection? ....

    * .... Vital and Venerable and Virile and Viral 0day Exploit Vulnerability Exports/Critical Infrastructure and Tactical Virtual Exoskeleton Imports .... Extremely Well BetaTested for Extremely BetaTesting Environments.

    In an Ascendancy what is IT to be ..... a Western Confection, an Eastern Delight or an Alien AIdDevelopment with Future Sources in Almighty Forces and Almighty Sources with Future Forces? It is a Simple Question to Answer with the Free Choice of Three Obvious Individual Leads, a JOINT Enterprise Option in a Trinity or Brace Operation or an Ignorant Stone Dead Silent Rejection of the Prime Opportunity to Render Humanity Solely Uniquely Virtual Machine led.

  6. ITMA Bronze badge

    Will they be painted in Burberry pattern colour schemes and wear chavvy baseball caps?

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