World first ASME code inspection at a US nuclear plant

Case Study

World first ASME code inspection at a US nuclear plant

In a world first for the nuclear sector, Cyberhawk inspected two of American Electric Power’s (AEP) concrete PWR containment domes at the Cook Nuclear Plant, located along Lake Michigan’s eastern shoreline.

Although drones have previously been utilised in the nuclear industry this was the first time a drone has been used by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) according to the Section XI Code. The Code refers to several American Concrete Institute standards for completing an examination and this inspection has been recognised within the nuclear industry as a best practice based on these standards.

Cyberhawk has built a strong reputation for conducting UAV structural inspections in hazardous industrial environments, where safety is paramount, which saw the team become the preferred provider for this challenging scope of work. UAV inspection was also favoured to provide accurate data as it meant minimal risk to personnel, versus the working at height issues associated with conventional inspection and access techniques.

The alternative method of inspection would have involved using a man basket with a huge crane, which could take up to a week just to set up. In contrast, it took just one week for Cyberhawk to inspect both domes using UAVs, and generated cost savings of 300%.

Moreover, the level of detail obtainable from traditional inspection methods is nowhere near what was achieved with UAV technology, capturing images of 100% of the dome surface to the ASME code standard with the results digitised into a 3D point cloud, that will allow direct digital comparison for any future inspections.

Work was completed quickly, efficiently and according to the ASME code examination requirements, with an experienced pilot and inspection engineer working around the plant’s scheduled projects, without causing any interference. Furthermore, the magnetic interference of the nuclear plant meant that GPS signal was non-existent, so the whole project had to be flown by the pilot completely manually to conduct a safe inspection.

It’s important to remember that drones collect a huge volume of data, however a high-quality engineering report can make all the difference. This allows the client to easily assess the condition of the structure and plan any maintenance based on the data. The final reports provided 100% visual coverage of the dome with exact sizing of defects and a 3D model of the structure. This was delivered to AEP through Cyberhawk’s cloud based iHawk visual asset management system.

As a UAV company that has extensive experience within multiple projects and sectors, Cyberhawk’s pilots and engineers have a varied and very experienced skillset. This allows them to successfully undertake projects of challenging nature, that no one has attempted before.

Read more about this project and what American Electric Power thought of the results in Inside Unmanned Systems magazine.

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