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OC Robotics and OPG IMandCS completed the first deployment in May 2010 of a snake-arm robot designed to conduct inspections within the upper feeder cabinets (UFCs) of Candu reactors.

The UFC contains primary coolant pipe work and is located a few metres above the reactor face.

During operation, pressurised D20 enters the reactor fuel channels at 250C and exits at 290C.

The UFC cools to 40C during an outage.

Radiation hazards include hotspots, contamination and Tritium (hence air suits).

Dose rates are 100-400mRem/hr.

The UFC is a confined space with some crawl-only access and limited space to turn around.

Safire, a stable, controllable platform from which to acquire video and still images, is designed to reduce operator dose and increase the amount and quality of captured data.

The platform is designed to reach 100 per cent of the UFC.

Real-time remote control enables feedback, thought and learning.

Sub-optimal air suits are replaced with ‘calm control’.

The 2.2m-long, 25mm-wide snake arm is mounted on a mobile vehicle, which is driven remotely along walkways in the UFC.

The snake arm is stowed coiled for compactness and is deployed by unwinding and nose following between the pipes.

The snake arm can be deployed at any angle to reach below or above the walkway.

Tool-mounted cameras are used for navigation and image capture.

PTZ cameras on the mobile and base units provide scene views and an additional inspection capability.

OC Robotics simulation and training software and full-scale mock-ups were used extensively during testing and for pre-outage rehearsals.

Setup was completed in 70 minutes from the first entry into the vault to remote operation.

Tear-down took 30 minutes.

Safire completed the predefined inspection scope in one 12-hour shift.

According to OC Robotics, 24/7 multi-day deployments using teams of operators are planned for future outages.

The first deployment at OPG’s Pickering plant achieved all the target objectives including setup and tear-down times, operator dose reduction and the full inspection scope.

Safire enables improved data collection and reduces operator dose.

The deployment of additional non-destructing testing tools is planned.

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