Virtual engineering will play a critical role in determining how to stabilise the remains of the wrecked number four reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant – by allowing sophisticated testing of robots designed to work inside the reactor core itself.
Tecnomatix Technologies, based in Israel, is providing a package of production engineering software that will enable engineers at the power plant to create a virtual model of the ruined reactor, which they can use to simulate operations robots will have to carry out to make the remains safe.
This will allow them to determine whether it is feasible to remove the radioactive mess inside the reactor – which includes an estimated 200tonnes of spent fuel.
‘Our engineers can now plan and optimise the required operations without any risk of radiation exposure,’ said Alexander Ivanov, director of nuclear safety and robotics at Chernobyl.
The computer-aided production engineering package – widely used in the automotive and aerospace industries – can be integrated with leading CAD packages, which means it can accurately simulate the performance of existing machines.
‘Our ability to define the required robots in the Tecnomatix virtual environment before they are built presents a significant time and cost saving to the project,’ said Ivanov.
While funding for the £600m project to strengthen the crumbling concrete sarcophagus around the reactor and, possibly, remove the thousands of cubic metres of highly radioactive rubble inside, will not be finalised until the autumn, Tecnomatix has been brought in early to work with Trischler, the German consulting firm co-ordinating western involvement on the project.