Robotized System for the inspection of ITER first wall panels by UT

The continuous increase in energy demand together with climate change has pushed society to find more efficient and cleaner energy sources, and this is wherenuclear fusion energy begins to play a crucial role. Recreating the conditions of the Sun on Earth is not an easy task, but surely with the efforts of the 35 countries involved in the ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) project, this milestone in the history of humanity will be achieved. In this article, we are going to focus on the component that is the first security barrier: First Wall Panels (FWP).

Position of the different components of the Tokamak nuclear fusion reactor.

ITER FWPs are the components inside the vessel directly exposed to plasma. They are formed by layers of different materials (Beryllium, Copper-Chromium-Zirconium and Stainless Steel), joined together in several stages of HIP (Hot Isostatic Pressing) diffusion welding. The high-quality requirements for the manufacture of these components require inspection by Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) of these joints.

The objective of this work is to present the robotic system developed byTecnatom for the Ultrasonic inspection (UT) of the joints of the ITER FWP, under contract Nº F4E-OMF-900-03 maintained by FBL (Fusion Business Leadership) with F4E (Fusion for Energy), funded by the European Union. With this type of systems, high productivity is achieved for the manufacturing processes and high positioning repeatability, resulting in uniformity in the aco plamiento and in the ultrasonic signal obtaining high inspection speeds without contact.

According to the work previously carried out in blocks, models, and prototypes, it has designed, manufactured, and tuned a total immersion inspection cell for each of its manufacturing stages of the FWP.  As a preliminary step to the fabrications, numerous previous simulations of the movements of the robot were carried out to define the distribution of the cell and ensure the reach to all the necessary positions. The system, accepted by the client, has been validated by inspecting blocks representative of the geometry of the panels with the postulated defectology.  This develops inspection procedures to meet the objectives set out in the technical specification for the manufacture of the panels. The last stages of the project have been the installation of the system in the customer’s factory, as well as the qualification of the complete inspection process on three real prototypes and soon the inspection of the first series of the FWP will be carried out during its manufacture. 

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