15 March 2017

EDF Energy contract for nuclear inspection tool.

New inspection tool from James Fisher Nuclear provides vital nuclear reactor condition information for EDF Energy.

James Fisher Nuclear (JFN) is celebrating another substantial contract - a commission from EDF Energy, the UK's largest producer of low-carbon electricity, to produce eddy current inspection tools. The tools will use innovative eddy current technology to assess the condition of the graphite blocks in the reactor cores across their fleet of nuclear reactors, to a level that has not previously been possible.

The Eddy Current Inspection Tools (ECIT), developed by JFN in collaboration with EDF Energy, Serco (now AMEC), Bloodworth Consultancy and Manchester University, have been designed to assess the condition of the graphite within vacated fuel channels by applying an electromagnetic field to the graphite. As graphite is electrically conductive, eddy currents are induced in the material from which the electrical conductivity can be measured and graphite density inferred. Understanding the density variations within each reactor on such a short turn around (compared to trepanning - drilled holes) provides significant support to the safe operation of the reactor fleet. The enhanced understanding of graphite density also enables EDF Energy to improve the assessment of station lifetimes.

Project lead for JFN, Sarah Town, explained:

"We originally developed a proof of principle eddy current tool with EDF Energy which led to the prototype eddy current inspection tool. The prototype was only intended for a limited number of deployments but has exceeded expectation and now, several years later, is still providing EDF with valuable inspection information from within the graphite channels of their reactors."

Moving on from this very successful prototype, the ECIT devices have been further developed to be robust and adaptable enough to provide reliable and accurate data in the hostile and highly radioactive environment of the reactor cores of EDF Energy's fleet of operating advanced gas-cooled (AGR) nuclear power stations. The data from each inspection is relayed to operators on the charge face and enables rapid assessment of the condition of the core by the EDF Energy inspection team.

Production will commence at JFN's modern engineering facility in Malton in the next few weeks and the first full deployment completed during 2018. This new contract includes control consoles, specialist strongback for transportation and storage and a calibration unit for each tool. Two test rigs have also been commissioned to conduct the factory acceptance tests (FAT) and temperature controlled calibration tests (TCCT) to ensure that, once manufactured, the ECIT tool will function as expected when deployed on station.