Video: The Robot That Guards Low-Level Radioactive Waste

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Everyone's favorite military blogger, Noah Shachtman, reports that a new robot has been deployed at the Nevada National Security Site (aka the famous Nevada Test Site), a major repository for low-level radioactive waste. In this video, you can watch the Mobile Detection Assessment Response System, or as we affectionately call it, Old Uncle Frank, tooling around the site.

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.

Read the full story at Danger Room at Wired.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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