Endel SRA is developing a miniaturized robotized tool featuring a camera capable of penetrating to the heart of a key perimeter for power generation. This technology will enable precise diagnosis of the water passages making up the spacer plates (PE) of the steam generator (SG)*.
A subsidiary of the Altrad Group, a specialist in energy services, Endel supports its industrial customers by providing industrial services in environments that demand safety and quality.
Endel SRA, an Endel subsidiary, develops and manufactures remotely-operated tooling for a wide range of operations, including the inspection and televisual examination (TVE) of spacer plates. These maintain the same space between the tubes placed in the steam generator and allow water to pass through.
The equipment in the various French units does not always have the same characteristics. At present, existing maintenance technologies are unable to inspect/examine all spacer plates. Endel SRA's teams have therefore devised a custom-built, remotely-operated tool capable of entering the steam generator. Equipped with a 4 mm camera, this tiny robot, with lighting capable of projecting up to 1 m, will inspect/examine the plates, which until now have been difficult to access. The stakes are high: televisual examination is a key factor in ensuring effective, proactive maintenance, and plays a major role in nuclear safety at nuclear power plants.
Consolidating safety by reducing exposure risk
"Once prototyped, this little technological gem will represent a major step forward in the modernization of nuclear maintenance tools, while optimizing the safety and radiation exposure of maintenance operators. It will no longer be necessary for an operator to enter the GV to position the current inspection tank".says the company.
To carry out this project, which is currently under development, the Endel SRA teams have obtained a grant from the France Relance plan corresponding to half of the total investment required, i.e. €850,000. The aim is to finalize the first robot by the end of 2022.
"Carrying out these diagnostic operations requires very high precision and cutting-edge know-how, while at the same time being strategic for the safety of the fleet.explains Jean-Paul Mandier, Managing Director of Endel SRA. Confronted with steam generators of different designs, we identified the best way to overcome the impossibility of accessing certain plates. This is how the "Televisual expertise of steam generator spacer plates" project was born, with a view to developing and optimizing the technical and operational maintenance of nuclear installations".
* Steam generators are essential for power generation. The heat produced in the reactor core is transmitted by circulating water in a closed circuit - known as the primary circuit - to a secondary circuit, where the water, transformed into steam, powers turbines to generate electricity. Heat exchange between the primary and secondary circuits takes place via a large number of tubes held together by several spacer plates inside the steam generator (source www.irsn.fr)