A team of Southern Nuclear engineers at the Edwin I. Hatch Nuclear Plant were honored yesterday at the Nuclear Energy Assembly in Phoenix, Ariz. They received the nuclear industry's highest honor – a TIP Award – for developing a Top Industry Practice. The team claimed the 2014 GE Hitachi Vendor Award for its participation in GE Hitachi's development of the Stinger™ Automated IVVI, a new first-of-a-kind tool for performing in-vessel visual inspections.
Southern Nuclear's interest in the Stinger™ tool was piqued in 2012, when an inspection team witnessed a demonstration of remote-operated-vehicle (ROV) technology. The team quickly realized the tool's potential for improving refueling outage efficiency, and Hatch and GE Hitachi collaborated to make it happen.
"We're proud that Hatch successfully leveraged ROV technology to perform cleaning and inspection activities for the recent Unit 2 outage," said Hatch Vice President David Vineyard. "This new process took the place of labor-intensive manual inspections."
The radiation-tolerant Stinger™ tool features a unique extendable inspection camera and weld cleaning system that's operated by workers positioned hundreds of feet away from the vessel cavity.
The inspection camera leader system is remarkably maneuverable. It can pan, tilt and rotate in five axes of motion, even around corners, to obtain the optimal view. For the Unit 2 outage, inspection coverage increased 20-30 percent, and the visual quality of the exams also improved.
With traditional in-vessel visual inspections, several outage activities must be suspended during fuel shuffles and new fuel replacement, to protect workers. With ROV technology, which allowed inspection operators to work safely from a remote location, employees' exposure to radiation showed a marked improvement.
The tool also improves outage duration. In-vessel inspections can begin days earlier in the refuel process. When remote inspections are performed in parallel with critical path activities, two days are saved in the duration of the outage.
With so many benefits, others are eager to adopt the new technology. And since the process is transferable across five series of boiling water reactors, Stinger™ should provide similar gains in efficiency and savings across the industry.
"Stinger™ technology raises the bar on conventional inspection methods with significant savings in outage radiation dose, cost and duration," said Southern Nuclear project lead Gary Lofthus. "This is a great example of the Southern Nuclear - GE Hitachi alliance partnership at work."