U.K., Japan to research remote D&D, fusion systems

January 22, 2021, 6:53AMRadwaste Solutions

The LongOps project will develop innovative robotic technologies. Photo: UKAEA

Britain and Japan have signed a research and technology deployment collaboration to help automate nuclear decommissioning and aspects of fusion energy production. According to the U.K. government, which announced the deal on January 20, the £12 million (about $16.5 million) U.K.–Japanese robotics project, called LongOps, will support the delivery of faster and safer decommissioning at the Fukushima Daiichi reactors in Japan and at Sellafield in the United Kingdom, using long-reach robotic arms.

The four-year collaboration on new robotics and automation techniques will also be applied to fusion energy research in the two countries.

Funded equally by U.K. Research and Innovation, the U.K.’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, and Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Company, the LongOps project will be led by the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA) Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE) facility.

Robotics for Plant Maintenance: Now and in the Future

November 20, 2020, 3:07PMNuclear NewsTobias Haswell

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.

Solving Sellafield’s 4 Ds problem

November 6, 2020, 3:44PMNuclear Newsthe U.K. National Nuclear Laboratory and Sellafield Ltd

The U.K. National Nuclear Laboratory’s Colin Fairbairn (left) and Ben Smith (in pre-COVID days) work on the Box Encapsulation Plant (BEP) robots project at the NNL’s facility in Workington, Cumbria, U.K. Photos: UKNNL

Though robotics solutions have been used across many industries, for many purposes, Sellafield Ltd has begun to bring robotics to the U.K. nuclear industry to conduct tasks in extreme environments. The Sellafield site, in Cumbria, United Kingdom, contains historic waste storage silos and storage ponds, some of which started operations in the 1950s and contain some of the most hazardous intermediate--level waste in the United Kingdom. There is a pressing need to decommission these aging facilities as soon as possible, as some of them pose significant radiation risk.

Robotics at Palo Verde

October 30, 2020, 2:09PMNuclear NewsRick Michal

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.

Ratliff and Harris: Innovation for safety and reliability

October 23, 2020, 3:14PMNuclear NewsSusan Gallier

Ratliff

Harris

When Floyd Harris began working at Duke Energy’s Brunswick nuclear plant about 24 years ago as a radiation protection technician, robotics and remote monitoring were considered tools for radiation protection and nothing more. Now, teams from across the site, including engineering, maintenance, and operations, rely on the system of robots and cameras Harris is responsible for. “If you want to put those technologies under one umbrella,” says Harris, who now holds the title of nuclear station scientist, “it would be monitoring plant conditions.”

That monitoring is critical to effective plant maintenance. As Plant Manager Jay Ratliff explains, the goal is to “find a problem before it finds us” and ensure safety and reliability. Nuclear News Staff Writer Susan Gallier talked with Ratliff and Harris about how robotics and remote systems are deployed to meet those goals.

At Brunswick, which hosts GE-designed boiling water reactors in Southport, N.C., ingenuity and hard work have produced a novel remote dosimetry turnstile to control access to high-radiation areas, an extensive network to handle data from monitoring cameras, rapid fleetwide access to camera feeds to support collaboration, and new applications for robots and drones.