ROBOT cleaners capable of working in dangerous areas of nuclear power stations are to be created by professors at the University of the West of England.

Funding of £4.6million has been allocated to develop the new generation of robots, which will be capable of working in harsh conditions without the help of humans.

Professor Alan Winfield and Professor Tony Pipe, both of UWE Bristol and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, will contribute to the project alongside researchers from the University of Manchester and the University of Birmingham.

Their aim is to develop robots that can clean-up nuclear power plants and be able to work in other hostile environments like space, below the sea and mining operations.

Tony Pipe, Professor of Robotics and Autonomous Systems at UWE Bristol, said the project will require "world-renowned expertise". 

The end result, however, would have a "valuable societal and environment impact for the UK.”

The cost of cleaning up the UK’s existing nuclear facilities has been estimated to be between £95billion and £219billion over the next 120 years.

Harsh conditions within these facilities means that human access is highly restricted and much of the work will need to be completed by robots.

However, robot technology is not capable of completing many of the tasks required at present.

Professor Barry Lennox, of the University of Manchester, said that new programme would hopefully remedy this problem.

He added: “The work will allow technologies to be reliably deployed in to harsh environments, keeping humans away from the dangers of radiation.”

Over the next five years, the researchers will produce sample robots that can be trialled in a variety of environments.

It is expected that these trials will include using robots to sort and segregate waste materials without the help of humans.