Charli cleans up at Creys-Malville

05 December 2013

A laser-toting robot called Charli has been deployed inside the reactor vessel of the Superphénix fast neutron reactor to carry out pipe-cutting operations in a world first for reactor decommissioning.

Robot CHARLI 250 (Areva)
Charli will be used for pipe-cutting work at Superphénix (Image: Areva)

Developed by Areva, Charli is a small remote-operated vehicle equipped with a robotic arm fitted with a laser cutting head and equipped with multiple cameras. It has been specifically designed to move around inside confined pipework structures where environmental conditions are very harsh, with high radiation levels and temperatures and the presence of materials including sodium.

The robot takes its name from the French term for the robot itself, char, and the name of the pipes in which it is to be deployed, known as LIPOSO (from Liaison Pompe Sommier). The pipes provided the interconnection between the reactor's primary pumps with the base frame which supported the reactor's fuel assemblies, and have walls 3 cm in thickness. Both the use of the robot and the cutting operations in such an environment for the removal of sodium from a reactor are world firsts, according to Areva.

Prior to Charli's introduction into the first of the eight LIPOSO pipes, the robot underwent extensive testing at the site. Charli is expected to take until 2014 to complete its work to cut the pipes and allow the sodium to be extracted.

Superphénix was a 1250 MWe commercial prototype fast breeder reactor which was closed in 1998 after 13 years of operation and is now being decommissioned. It is located at Creys-Malville and is owned by EDF.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News