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Fluor Idaho Develops New Cleanup Project for INL

BYU-Idaho Radio · Fluor Idaho Develops New Cleanup Project for INL
Technology is continuing to advance in interesting ways every day. One of those cool innovations is in the design of video game controllers. These controllers utilize a concept called “haptic feedback” that triggers when you press a certain button. 

For example, let’s say your character is drawing a bow. When you pull the trigger on the controller, the button starts to vibrate, indicating that your character on screen is drawing their bow. The controller is giving you a physical response to your action. 

Haptic feedback can provide a realistic experience to an otherwise virtual environment. But haptic feedback is starting to find even more uses in the real world, including here in Eastern Idaho. 

Fluor Idaho is tasked with helping the cleanup process at Idaho National Laboratory. Recently, they’ve developed a new method of cleaning out calcine from INL’s radioactive wastebins. 

“Calcine is the byproduct of a process that was used to convert high-level radioactive liquid waste that was generated during spent nuclear fuel reprocessing at the Idaho National laboratory Site from the 1950’s until about 2000,” said Erik Simpson, the media spokesman for Fluor Idaho. 

The goal is to transfer the calcine to a single place to easily dispose of it. But engineers ran into a problem pretty quickly in the process. 

Calcine is a solid material that resembles laundry detergent. As such, when machines are scraping the calcine out of the wastebins, it can get really foggy and cloud up cameras that machine operators are using to pilot the machines. And so, mechanical engineers like Derek Allen came up with a solution. 

“We ran into haptic feedback,” said Allen. “What we need is the ability for the operators to feel in the event any visual feedback fails. So now if it runs into a wall or hits a stiffening ring, the arm you’re holding onto will actually resist the movement, so you can still work even though you can’t see anything.” 

This kind of feedback is becoming more and more important in today’s world. Allen says this technology could be used for even more projects in the future. 

“When we go to work, we see things, we hear things, and we feel things. Being able to feel things is a huge part about doing our work. When you can feel something rather than just see it, it becomes a lot easier,” he said.