VIGIA system implemented in the 22nd refueling of Cofrentes NPP

Optimization of control and monitoring in FME zones through digitalization and UHF RFID technology

In the nuclear sector, it is extremely important to avoid the presence of foreign material in certain areas of nuclear power plants (NPPs) as they can cause serious damage to equipment, unavailability, personal injury and impact on nuclear safety.

These zones, known as FMEz (Foreign Material Exclusion Zones), are grouped by levels depending on the risk posed by the presence of an unwanted MTE (Material/Tool/Equipment). In FMEz zones, the tracking and identification of MTEs is generally carried out by manual procedures, which in many cases are time-consuming, involve a high level of manpower and entail a high probability of human error.

The introduction of digitalisation and wireless devices in the management of FMEz areas is an innovation with great potential for the benefits it generates. In this scenario GDES has designed and developed the VIGIA system, a hardware and software system for the control and monitoring of PMTE (Person/Material/Tool/Equipment) in FMEz areas by means of UHF RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) wireless technology.

The VIGIA system consists of mobile PMTE tracking beacons, programmable tags adapted to PMTE and portable units for tag registration, consultation and tracking of MTEs. The beacons integrate a reader capable of governing several antennas (greater spatial coverage), sensorisation and user interface where the database that stores all the information on the PMTEs and the operation of the system in general is housed. The portable units are battery operated and synchronised with the beacons. The tags were selected after an exhaustive market study that has allowed a wide range of models to be available to adapt perfectly to any PMTE to be controlled.

The VIGIA system was successfully implemented during the 22nd refuelling outage at the Cofrentes nuclear power plant, enabling real-time control of the PMTEs.

It has been demonstrated that RFID technology allows the supervisor of work in FMEz areas to respond quickly and specifically to real incidents that may occur during periods of high volume of work, such as refuelling periods. The digitalisation of the information from the programmable tags adapted to the PMTE increases the decision-making capacity, allows automated control of the tools in the plant and the elimination of paper in the control and registration processes with the possible errors that this entails. This technology also makes it possible to implement additional functionalities to the current work of monitoring and tracking MTEs, such as the time personnel remain in certain areas, the calibration status of equipment, the intensity of use of certain tools and equipment and, in general, a wide range of possibilities for use through specific software.

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