Ignite 2018 – OPG Inspection & Maintenance Challenge

Optimize the Health and Performance of Canada’s Power Generation Systems
Inspection & Reactor Innovation (IRI) at OPG is focused on ensuring optimal health and lifetime value of Canada’s reactor fleet, as well as performing inspection and maintenance services to energy systems across all sources and markets. As with all of OPG, safety is the overriding priority, and any technology that enforces or enhances this standard of practise while improving our performance is greatly welcome. This is why Ignite is important to us. It is an opportunity to challenge ambitious and passionate innovators to apply new technologies to optimize the value of our critical assets. Our power plant components range from Fuel Channels, Boilers and Turbines (see below for descriptions).

For this year’s Ignite, we are looking for solutions to the following challenges:

  • Reactor Face Safety
  • Fuel Channel Ultrasonic Inspections
  • Fuel Channel Inspections Data Handling/Processing
  • Foreign Material Detection on Tools
  • Automated Analysis of Visual Inspections on the Cloud
  • Electro Magnetic Interference and UAVs
  • Autonomous Cleaning of Underwater Structures
  • Water Sealing Materials

Details on these challenges can be found below. Keep scrolling for more!

If you think you have an idea that could revolutionize our industry, that doesn’t address one of these challenges, we still encourage you to apply to the Ignite 2018 Inspection & Reactor Innovation category.


Challenge Descriptions

Reactor Face Safety

Question: “How might we reduce the time of inspection work on the reactor face and reduce worker dose?”

Background: Many of our inspections are conducted in a radiological area using both automated and manual tools. This work is conducted on critical path during a reactor outage, thus a focus on minimizing time in the work schedule to save costs. Time spent by a worker in a radiological containment area equates to dose and we are looking for innovative solutions such as automation and robotics to reduce dose to the worker. We are also constantly looking for ways of faster data acquisition and processing to reduce the time taken for inspections.

Fuel Channel Ultrasonic Inspections

Question: “How might we deploy various ultrasonic inspection techniques such as phased array to collect the required volumetric and dimensional inspection data faster?”

Background: Fuel channel inspections (volumetric and dimensional) are conducted utilizing remotely operated tooling carrying a series of ultrasonic probes. Inspection requires several passes through the channel using different probe configurations to collect the required data. This work is conducted on critical path during a reactor outage, thus a focus on minimizing time in the work schedule to save costs.

Fuel Channel Inspections Data Handling/Processing

Question: “How might we utilize modern computing, data processing and signal transmission hardware/software to simplify and speed up signal conversion and data transmission operations?”

Background: Fuel channel inspections are conducted utilizing remotely operated tooling carrying a series of ultrasonic and eddy current probes. Inspection of single fuel channel requires extensive analogue to digital signal conversions and generates many Gigabytes of data that needs to be handled within the data collection system computers, and rapidly transmitted to offsite resources for analysis. This is a time sensitive process and we are continuously challenged to deliver faster systems with increased quality and reliability.

Intelligent Foreign Materials Exclusion Tool Integrity Checks

Question: “How might we use cameras and AI software to improve / reduce / eliminate the need for workers to spend time and radiation dose on Foreign Material Exclusion tooling integrity checks?”

Background: Checking each and every tool that crosses a Foreign Material Exclusion (FME) boundary for missing parts or contaminants is a necessary part of doing work in the nuclear industry, but when it’s a manual process to check every tool, on every transition, in a hazardous environment on outage critical path, it consumes valuable time and radiation dose. Machine vision, laser scanning and artificial intelligence software has advanced to a point where computers and cameras can do most of the same work, with as good quality, in a fraction of the time. This is of particular interest to IRI Reactor Maintenance applications, but it is generally applicable to OPG, and the nuclear industry as a whole.

Feeders, Piping and Visual Inspections

Question: “How can new technologies be introduced to improve the laborious and dose intensive process of plant visual inspections? Do technologies exist to reduce the time, number of personnel, and accumulated dose of this critical activity?”

Background: CANDU reactors have intricate networks of pipes called feeders that provide necessary coolant to each and every fuel channel. These feeders need to be visually inspected for clearance and degradation. The vital function of this piping network makes the routine inspection imperative in ensuring the safe state of the reactor. Visual inspection requires teams of inspectors to work adjacent to the reactor face, accumulating large doses in the process.

Automated Analysis of Visual Inspections on the Cloud

Question: ”How might we implement a quick and effective data transfer and analysis system to support remote inspection operations?”

Background: Regardless of source of data – video, LIDAR or sonar, we need the ability to upload files and have the data reviewed by different groups. Analysis consists of flagging anomalies based on historical data or utilizing AI algorithms. This is a need for various inspection crews, from divers, UAV and other visual inspection processes.

Electromagnetic Interference and UAVs

Question: “How might we be able to design UAVs that comply with Transport Canada Standards while eliminating/minimizing the effects of Electromagnetic Interference?”

Background: OPG is one of Canada leader in terms of UAV inspections for visual, thermography indoor and outdoor Inspections, which has drastically reduced the time needed to complete the inspections. However, a common problem that the team has been having with the vehicles is experiencing Electro-Magnetic Interference (EMI) while inspecting certain structures (depending on surrounding material, geographical location). This results in a temporary loss of control of the drone and we are looking to work together with applicants to find innovative solutions to this industry-wide concern.

Autonomous Robotic Underwater Structure Cleaner (ARUSC)

Question: “How might we implement an autonomous robotic rover to independently work its way along various underwater structures to clean and monitor them?”

Background: Dive Crew is responsible for inspecting and cleaning the Fish Diversion System, the DNGS intake cap, and various bar screens/trash racks around the province. A dive crew consists of minimum 4 people. Diving operations are contingent upon weather. High pressure water is used to clean the structures (algae, zebra mussels etc). This is a labour-intensive undertaking, and oftentimes diving has to be aborted during the shift due to changing weather conditions. FDS cleaning is 100’ per day, overall length is approximately 2000 feet.

Temporary Sealing Materials/Tools:

Question: “What materials could be applied or developed to enable the Divers to more effectively seal surfaces of various shapes/areas? Any solution must be-usable/removable environmentally-friendly, lightweight and high-strength.”

Background: Dive Crew is often requested to seal off various openings/gates/leaking structures and prevent water flow, oftentimes for downstream maintenance activities. Depending on the circumstances, this might involve use of plugs, “cinders”, plastic sheets, woodchips, or various other materials. In many cases, eliminating all leakage is not possible, and various degrees of leakage must be tolerated.


Critical Nuclear Assets

Fuel Channels
Fuel Channels are some of the most important components in a CANDU reactor. They are pressure vessels that contain the radioactive fuel while the reactor is in operation and serve as the conduit where the heat produced from the fuel is transferred to the heavy water coolant, which is then transported to the rest of the Heat Transfer systems. Fuel Channels operate under high temperatures, pressures, and radiation exposure, which lead to an intense stress environment where even the most miniscule flaw, if left unattended, could be catastrophic. The great consequences of failure have led us at IRI to use cutting-edge ultrasonic and eddy current Non-Destructive Examination (NDE) inspections to characterize the Fuel Channels and assert that they are in optimum operating condition.

Feeders and Piping
The fuel channels of CANDU reactors receive their coolant through an intricate network of piping, the constituents of which are known as feeders. Each and every single fuel channel has its respective feeders at each end. Above feeders are the collection headers, which receive or deliver coolant from the primary heat transport system’s steam generators. In addition to these feeders, CANDU plants have countless pipes for many systems, all of which must be in acceptable condition to ensure the safe and proper operation of the plant. This condition is assured through routine and thorough manual inspection of plant piping, and during a reactor outage, of feeder pipes.

Steam Generators and Heat Exchangers are crucial parts of a CANDU Reactor Heat Transfer System. They use the energy (transferred by the coolant) from the core of the reactor and produce steam that is later used to generate power through a steam turbine. They operate under high temperatures, pressure and humidity conditions, meaning that they need to be monitored carefully in order to prevent any kind of failure. This is why at IRI we use a mixture of manual and robotic NDE techniques, including ultrasonic and eddy current, to perform inspections on heat exchangers and steam generators and to detect internal surface flaws and provide wall-thickness measurements.

Turbines are an essential part of any power generating facility. They transfer the thermal energy of the steam into rotational mechanical energy, and then convert it into electrical energy by a generator. Turbines operate under a corrosion-prone environment and rotate at very high speeds, meaning that corrosion-induced cracks and fatigue are common modes of failure. Therefore, in IRI we use Phased Array Ultrasonic Testing (PAUT), as well as other novel inspection techniques to diagnose any indication of failure and perform preventative maintenance as required.