What Swims, takes underwater pictures and doesn’t mind a splash in highly radioactive water at a nuclear power plant?
That would be Stinger the new swimming robot, created by GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy which will now allow nuclear plant personnel to go places no human could reach before and replace the old routine of cameras mounted on poles where inspectors would have to protect themselves from radiation.
Stinger is the first-of-its-kind remote-operated vehicle now being deployed to nuclear power plants across the U.S. as they go through scheduled refueling and inspection outages. It dives in the reactor pool for up to three weeks, using cameras to get a good look at material degradation. In addition to its camera technology, it also carries a high-pressure water nozzle, or hydrolaser, to clean metallic surfaces to ensure a good, clean look at the welds.
The robot is “a bit taller than the average human,” and works with computer-controlled thrusters and a multi-directional, high resolution color video camera while a single technician can operate it remotely from a tent hundreds of feet away from the vessel.
GE Hitachi engineer Brandon Smith, whose team developed the stinger said that customers like it because it can work longer with fewer concerns about radiation exposure. It can also perform its job while other outage operations are going on since it doesn’t need inspectors to be suspended above the reactor pool. These benefits translate to shorter plant downtime and lower safety risks to employees.