Robots have made a name for themselves in the nuclear industry again, becoming critical to strengthening personal and operational safety. They have offered a number of creative solutions for limiting exposure from remote viewing of radiological areas within the plant to collecting and storing radioactive materials (see Nuclear embraces robotic technology).
Cutting-edge robot technology was recently used at McGuire Nuclear Station in Huntersville, N.C. to make it easier to inspect dry cask storage canisters. Dry cask storage canisters are used to store used fuel after it is removed from the used fuel pool.
Spearheaded by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), a team of 21 visitors representing 10 organizations participated in the dry cask system inspection. The team used a cask that had not been loaded with fuel to evaluate visual, thermal and radiation inspection/measurement systems as well as acoustic emission monitoring.
Take a look at this brief time lapse video to get a closer look at the work done at McGuire.
Using robots to inspect the outside surface of loaded dry casks allows for any premature degradation to be identified and ensures continued safe storage of used nuclear fuel. Robot inspections will also play an important role during license renewal as these assessments will help account for potentially using casks longer than originally licensed.
Inspections like the one conducted at McGuire have also been performed at the Palo Verde plant in Arizona and Maine Yankee Nuclear Power Plant. The application of robots at nuclear sites will only continue to increase as the industry continues to find new and innovative ways to make work safer and more efficient. Robots reduce the risk of human error, providing for consistent, high-quality results. The integration of these and other technologies will provide needed inspection solutions for dry cask storage systems.