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A New Generation of Steam Generator InspectionsR. Lévy, A. Bouchinet
The basic concept of a manipulator in close contact with the tubesheet has very positive consequences on the average lifetime of all sorts of probes, in addition to an unequalled positioning accuracy. It was therefore decided to keep the same concept in the new line of equipment.
|Fig 1: The Ritmic manipulator with dual guide-tube|
The probe pusher
Three systems, having each its own control unit are now replaced by the eddy current probe pusher (Figure 2). The new system manages all translation movements, including a specific function for the optimisation of the length of the flexible conduit in which the probes travel.
|Fig 2: The pusher-puller for all eddy current probes, in situation of inspection.|
Numerical control ensures reliable and highly flexible automated inspection sequences. The whole system has been qualified for use on site for two years now; the reduction in installation time and switching time from one type of inspection to the other is clearly demonstrated as well as the expected reduction in maintenance and training duration.
The annular gallery terminal
In this case again, three pieces of equipment have been replaced by one.
The orders to the manipulator and the information in return for the tube co-ordinates were managed by one PC type computer in the shelter, an electronic system called "scrutator" also in the shelter and an equivalent "scrutator" in the annular gallery. These components had become obsolete and are now replaced by the annular galley terminal, connected to the shelter by an Ethernet link, with TCPIP protocol.
Initially developed in the 90s, the Supervisor is a software product managing the complete acquisition process. The new version has been rewritten under Windows NT environment and is now a real time multitask system, benefiting from the NT technology and ensuring reliable high speed transfer of information.
The complete line of equipment will be tested on site in the last term of this year.
In January 2001, three complete lines will be operational and progressively, the sixteen shelters operated by the company will be linked to as many sets of new equipment for the new generation of steam generator inspections.
The current organisation of inspection teams systematically implies the travel of acquisition and analysis personnel on the site of the inspection. Intercontrôle has considered for several years now, the possibility to keep the analysis teams in the facilities of the company, in a specific area, adequately equipped. Data would then be transferred from the inspected site to this location where all the working forces and the experts would remain "concentrated". The constant presence of the experts allows an immediate tracking of the analysis results and reduces the probability of false calls.
The various technologies available have been evaluated and satellite transmission was found to be a best compromise between performances and costs.
This new way of operating must also be fully accepted by the Utility and the complete process requires time before an official implementation.
The progress made in information technologies will have an impact on the social life of data analysts who can now remain in a location and receive data from anywhere. Those for whom travels were an attractive feature of their work sometimes resign ; others are pleased to see an improvement in their family life. A new distribution of skills will be necessary.
Once the concept of data transmission is made part of the current practice, then the optimisation of available resources becomes the unavoidable following step.
When equipment and competence are gathered on one spot, they must be used in the best way in terms of efficiency, quality of work and costs.
Network organisation is the optimal solution ; each analyst can in fact be trained to be operational on the limited number of existing configurations. Data are then distributed, as they arrive, to the available operator regardless of the origin making thus the most efficient use of working hours. Moreover, all storage and loading operations made necessary in absence of network disappear and with them, all the inherent risks of errors.
Since January 1998, Intercontrôle is a subsidiary of Framatome S.A. and is integrated in the Nuclear Services of the Group, together with other subsidiaries such as Framatome Technologies Inc., (FTI), in the U.S.A. Since then, a very fruitful collaboration has been initiated between Intercontrôle and FTI.
Eddy current data analysts from each company were successfully trained to become certified in the system prevailing in each country, thus being qualified to perform eddy current data analysis indifferently in one or the other company.
French data analysts have already participated in five jobs, in FTI facilities, interpreting data from US plants. FTI analysts have been trained in the early 2000 and should be busy, interpreting data from French plants in the fall of this year.
The next step envisaged is to continue this co-operation but without having to travel from one facility to the other : data will be sent across the ocean via satellite link and analysis results will be sent back.
Shortage in skilled manpower should no longer be a problem.
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