25.04.2020

Chernobyl Robots (Part-1)

Joker

Many myths and legends exist around the Chernobyl disaster. Myths, legends, and also not truthful and not accurate information. Reliable and authentic information, as a rule, can be found in the archives, heard from eyewitnesses of those events or if you are lucky enough to run into an intelligent guide on a tour in the Chernobyl zone. As a rule, for those who have just heard from the bottom of their ears about some moments from the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident or just have seen enough of the famous HBO series, it’s easy to confuse or confuse such people and feed them absolutely any information. This article will cover one of hundreds of thousands of stories about the liquidation of the Chernobyl accident.

Probably every person who even knows a little about the Chernobyl disaster understands what efforts and at what price this terrible process took place. Everyone has heard about such a term as "biorobots." On the expanses of the world wide web there are a large number of photographs, stories, articles and more than one documentary and feature film about young guys was shot, who, in improvised shields, cleaned the roofs of the Chernobyl nuclear power station covered in radioactive death with the help of ordinary shovels. But before this feat, which was not even clearly written in the Soviet media, the task of deactivating the Chernobyl roof fell on a group of people. By all means, they tried to prevent the very “biorobots” from becoming a conveyor for radioactive chopping block.

32 volunteers. These were people of various specialties, engineers, dosimetrists and just workers. Their job was to quickly clear the roof of the Chernobyl nuclear plant from high-level debris, reactor graphite, fragments of fuel cartridges and other radioactive waste for the further process of eliminating the catastrophe.

Initially, the main task of cleaning the roof of the station fell on robotics, which were created on the knee in place, designed by all kinds of research institutes of the Soviet Union or simply delivered from abroad. Now we will talk about one, perhaps, the most famous Chernobyl robot, which even appeared in the sensational series.

"Joker" with that name, he already arrived in August 1986 in the Chernobyl zone. Its official name is the telehandler with remote control MF-2 (Manipulatorfahrzeug 2). The main task of the "joker" was to work in zone M, the most dangerous zone on the roof near the destroyed 4 reactor, where radiation levels reached more than 10 thousand X-rays per hour. After the HBO series was released, everyone who watched it now knows this information, but not many know the history of the robot itself.

Back in 1972, at the center for nuclear research in Karlsruhe (Germany), KHG (Kerntechnische Hilfsdienst GmbH) designed a robotic arm for the needs of the nuclear industry. This was an early West German response to the problems of nuclear facility maintenance. Two years later, the first prototype came off the assembly line. The basis was taken on a small tracked chassis on top of which a turret with a three-meter paw manipulator was located. Despite the length of the working arm, the "joker" could lift a load weighing up to 200 kilograms. Thanks to an impressive set of tools, the robot could do almost any job. Besides the fact that it was equipped with television cameras and a powerful television transmitter at that time, it could also perform work on cutting, welding, drilling and crushing of various materials. He also had the opportunity to take measurements, collect samples, assess damage, and also carry out installation work of various kinds of complexity. The robot could be controlled both remotely and manually from the cockpit. Its main advantage was the ability to work in high radioactive fields.

After a wave of terrorist attacks in the 70s by the terrorists of the RAF (Red Army Faction), the robot was placed at the disposal of the German anti-terrorist police as a vehicle and to work with mine clearance in dangerous conditions for humans. Then he got his unofficial name "joker". In 1982, the equipment underwent easy modernization by electronics and some attachments.

In August 1986, the "joker" together with its successor MF-3 was purchased by the USSR to deal with the consequences of the Chernobyl accident. After the first attempt to bring the "joker" to zone M, titanic efforts failed. In addition to the fact that in a hurry the robot was lowered by a crane to a section of the roof littered with pieces of fuel brass knuckles and fragments of graphite, one of the tracks entered directly into the protruding fuel rod. All kinds of attempts to move a monophonic monster ended in failure. In order to pull the Germans from their place, it was necessary to bring people to the roof and use a winch to pull him off by hand. The main reason for the collapse of the "joker" on the roof of the reactor was false information on the real levels of radiation background from the USSR, which the councils passed to the Federal Republic of Germany for further programming of the equipment. 

The robot was programmed according to the data provided by the Soviet Union and after the first couple of minutes in the zone with unimaginable levels of radiation, the "joker" simply burned out all the electronics and it became just a pile of expensive, useless and luminous iron.

After the main period of liquidation of the accident and the construction of the first "sarcophagus", the "joker" was removed from the roof and sent for decontamination, like most other equipment that took part in the medical facility with the hope of its further use or at least sales for those in needed this technique. Due to the fact that the robot was in the zone of increased radiation for a long time, it could not be cleaned. Currently, this part of the story is located on the territory of the burial ground of the Buryakovka equipment in the exclusion zone.

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