Video – Robots Guard Nevada Nuke Site

Posted: October 4, 2010 in Uncategorized

Citizens of Nevada, you can now relax. The Nevada National Security Site, home to tens of millions of cubic feet of low-level radioactive waste — and location of over a thousand Cold War nuclear weapons tests — is now being guarded by robots. The first of a planned trio of Mobile Detection Assessment Response Systems, or MDARS, is currently patrolling some of the more remote sections of the 1,360 square mile facility.

The camera-equipped MDARS can scoot around pre-determined paths on its own, alerting flesh-and-blood guards when it encounters an intruder or a broken lock. In development by the Navy and General Dynamics since the early 1990s, the diesel-fueled sentry bot can operate for up to 16 hours, and reach a top speed of 20 mph. The U.S. military has experimented with using the MDARS machines to patrol some of its Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada. The bots have even been tested with automatic weapons — though I doubt that’s the plan at the nuke site.

The Nevada complex, about 65 miles away from Las Vegas, is best known for its iconic nuclear weapons test-shots. Today, it boasts locations to conduct “controlled chemical releases in the open environment to simulate emissions from nuclear weapons production plants,” according to the NNSS website. And the place hosts the “Big Explosive Experimental Facility” — BEEF, for short. It’s “currently used for weapons physics experiments and shaped charge development.”

Going robo at the Nevada site is a cost-cutting move, the National Nuclear Security Administration claims. Using the MDARS will save about “$6 million in infrastructure investments for equipment such as cameras, towers, lights, trenching and burial of cables to support towers and motion detection units to support protection of remote sensitive areas,” according to an administration statement. “Additionally, the robots will result in an annual cost avoidance of $1 million in protective force expenditures and equipment maintenance.” So rest easy, Nevadans. Not only are your mechanical guardians keeping you safe. They’re making sure your tax dollars are well spent, too.

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