Catz alum establishes National Centre for Nuclear Robotics

Professor Rustam Stolkin (1993, Engineering), the University of Birmingham’s Chair in Robotics is the Director of the newly established National Centre for Nuclear Robotics (NCNR).

With £42 million of funding won for the initiative, the University of Birmingham-led NCNR is a consortium of eight universities, all of which excel in robotics, sensing, AI, and nuclear applications. Co-funded by UK research councils, the research institutions themselves, support from industry and national labs, and investment partners, the aim of the NCNR is to permanently establish the UK as a leader in applying advanced robotics to nuclear problems.

The cleaning up of the UK’s 4.9 million tonnes of legacy nuclear waste is the largest environmental task Europe currently faces, and is one that can only be done by robots because the materials are too hazardous for humans – however, many of the necessary robotic solutions are yet undeveloped, so this will be one of the NCNR’s aims. In addition to the safe decommissioning of nuclear waste, the use of robots will be essential in enabling the safe, efficient and responsible running of new-build reactors. The nuclear industry is increasingly keen to use advanced robotics technologies to make complex operations in hazardous environments safer, faster and cheaper.

In addition to its research, the NCNR will create education and career development opportunities, with a current target to train 65 new nuclear roboticists.

Professor Stolkin holds a Royal Society Industry Fellowship for Nuclear Robotics and leads the Birmingham Extreme Robotics Lab, Europe’s most prominent university research lab dedicated to nuclear and other extreme environment applications of advanced robotics and AI. On securing funding as NCNR’s Director, he said: “The University of Birmingham, our academic and industry collaborators, and our international partners are delighted to receive this funding. We very much regard this as a beginning – our ambition is to permanently establish the UK as a world leading centre of excellence for nuclear robotics”.

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