Nuclear decommissioning case study: Areva

OC Robotics worked closely with Salvarem and Areva NC to demonstrate the remote-handling capability of a snake-arm robot in a confined and hazardous environment. Snake-arm robots are general purpose delivery tools for confined space working in hazardous areas.

Throughout the course of the demonstrations, the snake-arm system provided a capable, stable and reliable platform from which to complete work. Snake-arms are capable of carrying a wide range of tooling, working through small access holes, and providing the operator with stable precision motion capability to perform demanding tasks reliably.

This video provides an overview of the tasks performed during the demonstrations. If this video won't play, head on over to our video downloads to download a copy.

The snake-arm’s slender shape lends itself to sleeving in order to protect against contamination, whilst the overall design of the system ensures that sensitive electronics remain outside of the irradiated zone.

The demonstrations suggest that a snake-arm robot would prove to be a valuable addition to a decommissioning or maintenance toolkit, enabling remote handling and inspection through existing small access holes. This has the potential to avoid the need to create costly new access holes and expose workers to high radiation doses in the process.


The objectives of this project are to demonstrate snake-arm robots in an unstructured, unknown environment performing visual inspection, remote handling, radiological inspection, sampling loose material, and recovery in the event of failure.


The Areva site contains a wide range of ponds, vaults and cells, often containing unquantified radiation risks. Manual entry is not appropriate. Two mock-up cells were built by Salvarem, which included a number of pipes and vessels for the snake-arm to avoid or enter. One mock-up was dedicated to performing tasks with the snake-arm deployed from a vertical configuration, whilst the second mock-up saw the snake-arm introduced from a horizontal configuration.

Snake-arm & Operation

A 100mm diameter, 2.5 metre long snake-arm robot was used to complete the demonstration tasks. The snake-arm included a wrist and gripper at the tip, enabling the system to carry tools or work pieces into or out of the environment. The system was remotely controlled using OC Robotics' proprietary snake-arm control software.

The snake-arm successfully performed a number of remote-handling tasks - an overview is provided in the video at the top of this page.

Demonstrations for you?

If you're thinking of using a snake-arm robot for your project, contact us to find out more about setting up relevant demonstrations.


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