Liverpool’s Virtual Engineering Centre has delivered £20 million in financial savings for Sellafield with a state of the art blended reality coaching instrument.
THE VIRTUAL ENGINEERING CENTRE (VEC) labored with Sellafield Limited to co-develop a blended reality coaching simulator that mimics the real-life running surroundings of Sellafield’s newly commissioned nuclear waste elimination crane.
Sellafield approached the VEC with a problem to know the way virtual reality may well be used to tell and receive advantages the design of recent amenities and kit — similar to specialist cranes — within the early phases.
In explicit, Sellafield used to be having a look to make sure the security of specialist operators of its newly-commissioned crane, designed to scoop up and take away hazardous subject material from the web site’s 70-year-old Pile Fuel Cladding Silo (PFCS).
Commissioned to be used in 1952, the Pile Fuel Cladding Silo gained and safely saved radioactive cladding from uranium gas rods used one of the most UK’s earliest nuclear reactors. The construction is 21m prime and, inside of, homes six extraordinarily tall waste packing containers. It used to be at first designed to be completely sealed, which means leading edge techniques of gaining access to and retrieving the waste needed to be advanced.
Upgrade paintings finished at the PFCS within the 1990s made it imaginable to proceed to make use of the construction safely. The silo holds greater than 3200 cubic metres of intermediate-level waste.
The purpose of the Sellafield Pile Fuel Cladding Silo (PFCS) programme is to retrieve waste from the ability. Each phase of concrete needed to be minimize away in one piece (referred to as the monolith) and withdrawn right into a containment bag. Six containment doorways (already put in on all compartments) have been then reduced over the apertures and closed.
To take away the waste, a crane extends throughout the holes, a grabber will then drop all the way down to scoop the waste up, lifting it out of the container and again throughout the hollow.
The crane then drops the waste right into a specially-designed steel field, for secure and protected garage in a contemporary facility.
To reinforce general chance aid the important thing driving force is to ship the waste retrieval apparatus once imaginable. To succeed in faster supply a ‘fit for purpose’ means used to be taken for the retrieval apparatus design, in particular the retrievals crane on the center of the method. A typical ‘commercial-off-the-shelf’ crane/clutch used to be decided on, even though for PFCS the operations can be undertaken remotely, the use of CCTV to view the crane within the silo. To save you crane clashes with the silo partitions emphasis used to be put on professional operators managing the security chance (as different industries would do), somewhat than designing a fancy zoning gadget that will abate operations.
The workforce recognised the significance of the Human Factors (HF) protection facets for the crane operation and realised that new technology may just probably reinforce the operators to reach the specified talent ranges sooner than running the crane within the silo.
Developing a virtual coaching answer
A elementary simulator used to be advanced in no time from current Sellafield 3-D design fashions containing virtual knowledge at the silo and crane. The VEC workforce then built-in crane actions right into a simulator, managed from a chair with a integrated joystick just like the genuine crane. The VR fashion replicated the genuine plant CCTV digicam perspectives, permitting the virtual cameras to be managed as they’d be onsite.
Lynn Dwyer, Head of Commercial at The Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC) says: “The relationship with Sellafield started with a number of industry challenge led sandpit sessions. Our unique ‘sandpit’ model allows technology organisations to enhance their capabilities through virtual innovation, accessing academic research and the latest scientific and technology infrastructure.”
“We are always open-minded during these sessions… exploring a range of options to co-create a solution with the client. In this instance, a mixed reality solution best addressed Sellafield’s unique set of challenges,” Dwyer provides.
Cross-functional groups from Sellafield’s coaching, operations and specialist human components divisions took section within the classes. The workforce advanced the educational modules sooner than finalising a crane coaching programme. The end result used to be then used to familiarise and supply self belief to key Sellafield stakeholders, together with senior control, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).
The crane coaching simulator supplies a practical surroundings for Sellafield’s operators, each visually and bodily. It comprises correct manipulation and haptic comments of all regulate techniques. It additionally mimics each the feel and appear of the waste elimination procedure and the surroundings wherein the operator can be running. The VR surroundings enabled operators to learn how to ‘drive’ the nuclear waste retrieval crane in a secure surroundings sooner than a full-scale coaching surroundings used to be to be had.
Virtual reality coaching techniques are extraordinarily cost- efficient in comparison to conventional bodily mock-up-based rigs. This is the case for the reason that virtual knowledge required is now readily to be had. There are obviously environmental and protection advantages from running in virtual reality somewhat than in bodily area.
The means used on PFCS has been shared inside Sellafield Limited, with ONR and NDA, and there’s probably of receive advantages around the wider NDA property. The operators fed again variations between the
simulator and genuine plant (as an example slight diversifications in crane velocity), to lend a hand enhance the simulator. The operators finished the duty of filling a 3m3 waste container with simulant waste in simply sooner or later at the first strive. The modern coaching means the use of the VR simulator made this outstanding fulfillment imaginable.
Benefits of VR coaching
The reasonable user enjoy of the educational simulator constructed operator self belief and shortened the full undertaking time table. In the design segment, the operators known the place visible aids would lend a hand them place the crane extra exactly, and those spatial and design options have been added to the genuine plant all over its building.
Being in a position to spot undertaking wishes briefly enabled Sellafield to make fast and simple adjustments sooner than the crane went into manufacture.
The simulator is now so refined that the undertaking workforce have determined to make use of it as the main instrument for crane operator coaching. In the long run, this may occasionally permit the full-scale coaching rig to be re-purposed as a 2d retrieval gadget, saving £20 million on the price of long run waste retrievals.