Feature Article

Robotics for Plant Maintenance: Now and in the Future

Diakont technicians prepare an NDE inspection robot for deployment into a diesel tank. Photos: Diakont

Robotics and remote systems have been used for supporting nuclear facilities since the dawn of the atomic age. Early commercial nuclear plants implemented varying levels of automation and remote operation, such as maintenance activities performed on the reactor pressure vessel and steam generators. Over the past several decades, there has been a steady progression toward incorporating more advanced remote operations into nuclear plants to improve their efficiency and safety. One of the primary forces driving the adoption of robotic tooling in U.S. nuclear power plants is money.

The economic model for the U.S. operating fleet has changed considerably over the past 10 to 12 years. Regulations in the nuclear industry have rarely decreased and, more often than not, have increased. This has led to nuclear plants in certain energy markets being hindered financially and thus needing to find ways to optimize their operations to do more with the resources they have. At the same time, the reliability and flexibility of robotics and automated systems have been increasing while their costs have been decreasing, making robotic systems much safer and more available to use. This has helped drive utilities to explore new ways of using robotics to overcome the obstacles they are facing. One of the obstacles that power plants have been tackling has been shortening the duration of their refueling outages to decrease their costs and increase their revenue.

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Feature Article

Robotics at Palo Verde

The Zephyr system uses probes for steam generator inspections. Photos: APS

The Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, a three-unit pressurized water reactor plant operated by Arizona Public Service Company, has started using an inspection technology relatively new to the nuclear industry. The technology, called smart pigs (an acronym for “piping inline gauges”), has previously been employed by oil and gas companies for inspecting and cleaning underground pipes. After testing and analyzing smart pig products from several companies, Palo Verde’s underground piping consultant, Dan Wittas, selected a smart pig suitable for navigating the tight-radius bends in the plant’s spray pond piping. The spray pond system consists of piping, a pump, and a reservoir where hot water (from the Palo Verde plant) is cooled before reuse by pumping it through spray nozzles into the cooler air. Smart pigs work by using the water’s flow through the piping to move an inspection tool within the pipe itself. The technology replaces the previous method of pipe inspection, in which various relatively small sections of piping were unearthed and directly inspected, and were considered to be representative examples of the overall piping condition. In contrast, the smart pigs obtain corrosion levels for the length of piping traveled through and allow a corrosion baseline to be established.

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Feature Article

HPS's Eric Goldin: On health physics

Eric Goldin, president of the Health Physics Society, is a radiation safety specialist with 40 years of experience in power reactor health physics, supporting worker and public radiation safety programs. A certified health physicist since 1984, he has served on the American Board of Health Physics, and since 2004, he has been a member of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements’ Program Area Committee 2, which provides guidance for radiation safety in occupational settings for a variety of industries and activities. He was awarded HPS Fellow status in 2012 and was elected to the NCRP in 2014.

Goldin’s radiological engineering experience includes ALARA programs, instrumentation, radioactive waste management, emergency planning, dosimetry, decommissioning, licensing, effluents, and environmental monitoring.

The HPS, headquartered in Herndon, Va., is the largest radiation safety society in the world. Its membership includes scientists, safety professionals, physicists, engineers, attorneys, and other professionals from academia, industry, medical institutions, state and federal government, the national laboratories, the military, and other organizations.

The HPS’s activities include encouraging research in radiation science, developing standards, and disseminating radiation safety information. Its members are involved in understanding, evaluating, and controlling the potential risks from radiation relative to the benefits.

Goldin talked about the HPS and health physics activities with Rick Michal, editor-in-chief of Nuclear News.

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Feature Article

Harnessing the promise of radiation: The art of reasonableness

Radiation has benefited mankind in many ways, including its use as an energy source and an indispensable tool in medicine. Since the turn of the 20th century, society has sought ways to harness its potential, while at the same time recognizing that radiological exposures need to be carefully controlled. Out of these efforts, and the work of many dedicated professionals, the principles of justification, optimization, and limitation have emerged as guiding concepts.

Justification means that the use of radiation, from any radiation source, must do more good than harm. The concept of optimization calls for the use of radiation at a level that is as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA). Dose constraints, or limitation, are meant to assist in reaching optimization and protection against harm by setting recommended numerical levels of radiation exposure from a particular source or sources. Together, these three principles form the bedrock of the international radiation protection system that drives decision-­making and supports societal confidence that radiation is being used in a responsible manner.

President's Column

Safety: It comes down to perception

Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

Last month I asked if you’ve ever wondered why nuclear isn’t commonly considered the choice for clean power production. I also provided what I hope will be useful information as you make the case for nuclear in discussions about clean energy. In addition to being the cleanest form of energy today, nuclear is also safe, reliable, and scalable. This month, let’s talk safety.

Like the term “clean,” “safety” can mean something different to everyone. As measured by the number of deaths per unit of electricity produced, nuclear is on the same order of magnitude as “renewables” and other low-carbon sources of energy.

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Letter from the CEO

Low-dose radiation has found its analogue

Craig Piercy

Originally published in the September 2020 issue of Nuclear News.

This issue of Nuclear News is dedicated to highlighting advancements in health physics and radiation protection as well as the contributions of the men and women who serve in these fields. It comes at a time when COVID-19 is providing the entire world with an immersive primer on the science of epidemiology and the importance of risk-informed, performance-based behavior to contain an invisible—yet deadly—antagonist.

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