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The series "Chernobyl" is confidently located at the top of all possible ratings of the best premieres of 2019. Many appreciated the thoroughness with which the creators approached the reconstruction of the tragic circumstances of the accident at the nuclear power plant. However, not everything in the series is so smooth, and the audience drew attention to a lot of details that clearly did not correspond to reality.
One of them was the topic of using robots in eliminating the consequences of a disaster. Their role in what is happening seems to be episodic, although in reality it was much more noticeable. The MF-2 and MF-3 manipulators urgently ordered from the Federal Republic of Germany were not designed for such radiation doses and quickly failed.
And then specialists from the main robotic center of the USSR, the Leningrad Central Research Institute of Robotics and Technical Cybernetics (TsNII RTK), already then headed by the legendary Yevgeny Yurevich, were involved in the work.
Yurevich, who is called the father of domestic robotics, began with the development of an automated soft landing system for the first multi-seat manned spacecraft Voskhod, and in 1968 he headed his own Design Bureau of Technical Cybernetics, from which the Central Research Institute of RTK subsequently grew. It was here that on May 29, 1986, an order came as soon as possible - by June 15 - to develop and deliver a set of "robotic means for mechanized removal of debris from the territory of a nuclear power plant."
As we were told in the RTK, the complex was named "Gamma". It was planned to include a reconnaissance robot, a pick-up robot, a transport robot and a control center. The scout must examine the area to be cleaned and find out the radiation situation, after which the pick-up robot could start collecting objects and loading them onto a transport vehicle. Yurevich flew to Chernobyl.
Studying the situation on the spot, he continuously coordinated the work of his colleagues in Leningrad, who worked at that time, without exaggeration, around the clock, in two 12-hour shifts. The RTK explained to us how the process was organized: “First, the chief designer clarified at the station the specifics of the work to be done and the corresponding requirements for the robots. These data were transferred to the developers by phone. After the discussion, the main technical solutions were made and the delivery time for the next robot was determined. The manufactured robots were delivered by special flights to Kiev."
The work of engineers at the station itself was organized with the help of teams of 15-20 people replacing each other. “Only volunteers were included in the expeditions,” the RTK stressed. They were housed in a former kindergarten, a few dozen kilometers from the station, where the headquarters for the elimination of the consequences of the accident was located.
The first to arrive here was the wheeled reconnaissance aircraft RR-1, which made measurements of the radiation level and removed areas that were too dangerous for people. For several days, the robot examined the turbine room of the third power unit and the corridor of the “same” fourth, working in areas where radiation reached 18,000 R / h. The lightweight robots were delivered manually by the operators themselves.
However, on the roofs, where it was impossible or too dangerous for people to get, they were lowered by helicopters, in plywood containers, transferring the other end of the control cable to the adjacent roof, where they were received by operators from the Central Research Institute of RTK.
Weight: 39 kg, speed: 0.2 m / s. Worked: from June 17 to July 4, 1986 (RR-1), from June 27 to July 6, 1986 (RR-2). Wheeled robot reconnaissance equipped with a television camera and a dosimeter for a range from 50 to 10,000 R / h. It was controlled and fed by cable.It was supplemented by a similar machine PP-2, which were replaced by modified versions of the PP-3 and PP-4. In the photo - an experimental sample of the PP-1
“Based on the results of this reconnaissance, it turned out that this technology of using robots is unsuitable,” the RTK said. “The bulk of the primary work required cleaning large areas from radioactive waste, mainly on the roof.” Based on this, the developers of the Central Research Institute of RTK changed direction and began work on robotic bulldozers. And soon machines of the TR series began to arrive at Chernobyl.
They were controlled remotely: some by cable, others by radio, and differed noticeably in protection systems and, in general, in design. Their creators were faced with such a task for the first time, and they had to select the best solutions right on the go. More and more new problems were quickly discovered - the rapid consumption of batteries, the unreliability of radio communications and electronics in conditions of high radiation, and they were solved step by step.
The first bulldozer TR-A1 was used to clean 1500 sq. m of the roof of the deaerator stack - a technical room directly adjacent to the nuclear power plant's turbine hall, and later was used to dump radioactive waste into the sinkhole of the 4th power unit from the roofs located above it. In total, the car ran about 200 hours of net time - much more than it might seem after watching the series.
The batteries of the TR-B1 that appeared later were replaced by a gasoline generator with a 15-liter tank, which provided up to eight hours of autonomous operation. It was already controlled by radio, and if necessary, the bulldozer knife could be removed and replaced with a circular saw for cutting roofing material on the roof.
Finally, already in August 186 of the year, the TR-G1 and TR-G2 bulldozer machines arrived at the accident site, which had increased maneuverability and extreme radiation resistance.
TR-A1 and TR-A2, Central Research Institute of RTK
TR-A1 and TR-A2 differed only in the frame. TR-A1 weight: 600 kg, carrying capacity: 200 kg, cruising range: 12 km. Worked: 200 hours. Heavy wheeled robot with attached working tool in the form of a bulldozer knife and bucket. On-board equipment: a scanning television camera, a R-407 radio station, two STs-300 batteries with a secondary power source, a control unit and a portable control point with a 150 m cable. The next TR-A2 had a similar design and differed only in the frame for transportation and installation of rain protective film.
Semiconductors of that time could not withstand extreme doses of radiation, and on the TR-G robots they tried to transfer all the electronic circuits to the control center connected to the machines by cable. Everything that could not be transferred was replaced with reliable relay circuits, power was also supplied via a power cable.
In general, the engineers had to tinker with the cables separately, and cable layers appeared on the last robots that arrived at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Thanks to them, the cable remained slightly taut all the time, which excluded collisions with it and catching on obstacles.
Wheeled reconnaissance vehicles could not make their way everywhere, so the next pair of vehicles (PP-G1 and PP-G2) also received a tracked platform. The 65-kilogram robots could develop up to 0.3 m / s and made it possible to examine the situation in the very center of the disaster - around the failure of the fourth power unit. It was only possible to deliver heavy vehicles to work positions with the help of helicopters, and here again the engineers had to work hard.
They developed a television system for pilots with a camera mounted on a cable at the cargo lock and a display in the cockpit. The process was reminiscent of parking a car with an orientation to rear-view cameras - with the difference that everything took place in the sky above a deadly reactor. “The most dangerous was one of the first reconnaissance robots of the bubbler pool, directly under the exploded power unit, where the radiation power reached 15,000 roentgens per hour,” Yevgeny Yurevich later recalled. "The man who looked into this hell was doomed."
Weight: 1400 kg, speed: 0.12 m / s. A heavy tracked robot with a dozer knife mounted working tool. Control and power supply - through a 200-meter cable.
Central Research Institute of RTK
The brother of the TR-G1 is the tracked TR-G2 "Antoshka"
End and new beginning
Machines of other robotic institutes and enterprises of the USSR, including VNIITransmash, which supplied a pair of specialized transport STR - "moon rovers", which appeared in the same series, worked to eliminate the consequences of the accident. However, the contribution of the Central Research Institute of RTK turned out to be the most significant: in two months, they not only modernized German MFs, but also sent 15 reconnaissance, harvesting and transport robots to Chernobyl.
Their service, which began in June 1986, ended in February 1987. According to Yevgeny Yurevich himself, they replaced the work of several thousand people, operating in the most dangerous areas. During the liquidation of the consequences of the Chernobyl accident, robots examined more than 15,000 sq. m of the station, its territory and roofs, and cleared about 5000 sq. m.
The Central Research Institute of RTK believes that this catastrophe became tragic, but an important point from which domestic extreme robotics began - reconnaissance vehicles, researchers, rescuers … Some important conceptual solutions were found and worked out here, implemented in modern machines - group work, modular design and so on. However, we have already written about this.