There are approximately 56 million gallons (212km3) of high level waste (HLW) at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Hanford Site. It is scheduled that by the year 2040, the HLW is to be completely transferred to secure double-shell tanks (DST) from the leaking single-tanks (SST) via transfer pipeline system. Blockages have formed inside the pipes during transport because of the variety in composition and characteristics of the waste. These full and partial plugs delay waste transfers and require manual intervention to repair, therefore are extremely expensive, consuming millions of dollars and further threatening the environment. To successfully continue the transfer of waste through the pipelines, DOE site engineers are in need of a technology that can accurately locate the blockages and unplug the pipelines.

In this study, the proposed solution to remediate blockages formed in pipelines is the use of a peristaltic crawler: a pneumatically/hydraulically operated device that propels itself in a worm-like motion through sequential fluctuations of pressure in its air cavities. The crawler is also equipped with a high-pressure water nozzle used to clear blockages inside the pipelines.

The crawler is now in its third generation. Previous generations showed limitations in its durability, speed, and maneuverability. Latest improvements include an automation of sequence that prevents kickback, a front-mounted inspection camera for visual feedback, and a thinner wall outer bellow for improved maneuverability. Different experimental tests were conducted to evaluate the improvements of crawler relative to its predecessors using a pipeline test-bed assembly. Anchor force tests, unplugging tests, and fatigue testing for both the bellow and rubber rims have yet to be conducted and thus results are not presented in this research. Experiments tested bellow force and response, cornering maneuverability, and straight line navigational speed. The design concept and experimental test results are reported.

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