GEH robot completes buried pipe inspection at Texas nuclear plant

Source:GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy

A GEH technician prepares the ultrasonic inspection robot for deployment into an underground pipe at South Texas Project. GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) announced today that its ultrasonic robot, Surveyor™, successfully inspected a section of underground pipe at the South Texas Project Electric Generating Station. The inspection at the site of two Westinghouse-built pressurized water reactors near Bay City, Texas, marks the first deployment of the state-of-the-art robot at a nuclear power plant.

The Surveyor™ articulated robot used a single access point to inspect approximately 30’ of an aluminum-bronze alloy service water pipe with a 6” diameter. The robot inspected a 10’ vertical section, negotiated a 90-degree elbow and then inspected a 20’ horizontal section.

The internal diameter inspection was completed in less than eight hours and required no modification to the piping system. By contrast, inspections performed with other solutions outside of the pipe itself require time consuming excavation that could cost up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. While outside-based inspections are limited to the exposed length of pipe, Surveyor™ is capable of inspecting an entire length of pipe.

“Underground pipes are a key component of nuclear power plants but are difficult to inspect and sometimes inaccessible,” said Richard Rossi, GEH Vice President, Asset Management Services. “This technology enables an entire length of underground pipe to be inspected without the risk and expense of excavation.”

The inspection robot is controlled remotely as it captures visual and empirical data.  Nuclear power plants have extensive piping systems. Inspections are conducted to ensure the structural integrity of underground piping. Nuclear plant operators in the U.S. have adopted an initiative to proactively manage the reliability of underground piping with a goal of protecting structural integrity and preventing leaks. GEH’s technology addresses the industry’s need to inspect vulnerable piping and also meet regulatory requirements associated with plant life extension.

Surveyor™ is self-propelled with an umbilical which provides power and a live data feed to a control station. The robotic tool can inspect filled, partially-filled or drained pipes from 6” – 48” in diameter. As inspection data is collected a preliminary interpretation is performed in real time.

GEH developed Surveyor™ in collaboration with GE Industrial Systems which has successfully used the tool to conduct numerous buried pipe inspections within the oil and gas industry. In addition to ultrasonic robotic inspection technology, GEH offers electromagnetic robotic technology capable of inspecting pipes with non-ferritic liners such as concrete lined pipes.

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