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Orchestrating Outages

IT systems ease the pain of power plant restarts.

Fortnightly Magazine - July 2012

robot to inspect the reactor vessel; or the robot is used to perform eddy current testing.

“There’s also been a lot of innovation to improve inspection quality and reliability and reduce personnel exposure further,” he says. “When inspecting tubes in a steam generator, we used to employ three differently designed probes to collect different types of data. Now we have a single probe that collects all the data.” In the 1980s it took 12 days to do a reactor vessel’s 10-year inspection. Using today’s technology, the same inspection can be completed in just over three days.

Pre-outage preparation is the name of the game, especially when it comes limiting the duration of a nuclear plant’s refueling outage. It’s no surprise, then, that information technology is playing an ever-greater role here too.

Last fall, Ameren Missouri’s 1,190-MW Callaway Energy Center completed its 18th nuclear refueling. And since Callaway refueling outages occur every 18 months, preparations are already well underway for number 19. To streamline refueling outages and other maintenance activities, Callaway uses software supplied by Bentley Systems that aims to improve workforce productivity and save money by providing faster access to records.

Workers at the Callaway plant, which started using the program in 2002, have electronic access to millions of electronic documents containing legacy data from some 240,000 plant components, ranging from valves, piping, and electrical conduit to the design settings for all instrumentation and controls. The information was originally migrated from 13 legacy data sources.

In a typical outage there will be some 7,500 tasks, outlined in roughly 3,000 work packages, explains Scott Clardy of the Callaway plant’s configuration management group. As such, the system plays a key role in both outage planning and execution—by streamlining work processes and providing access to data history for plant components. It also will provide a view into whether and how the proposed change will affect components downstream.

“We can examine I&C set points, review as-found and as-left conditions from the last inspection, or calibration requirements,” Clardy says. “We can pull up a component and see all the interrelationships, or we can check the design basis documentation. Everything is accessible from the [Bentley] system, from who worked on it last, what they did, and the approvals that were secured before the work was done.”

Upon completion of the outage, the system provides a record of all corrective actions and design modifications in a centralized database.

“We call it the single source of truth,” says Janice Hoerber, the plant’s IT supervisor. “We can link to our on-site historical records from the 1970s, including reactor and plant construction data, and our older records, like our microfilm records, as well. In the future we intend to access it on mobile devices. But we’re not there yet.”