Surveyor robot checks pipework

10 December 2014

An inspection of an underground pipe at a US nuclear power plant has been successfully completed using GE Hitachi's Surveyor robot. Previously, such examinations have usually involved excavation work.

Plant inspectors normally use indirect methods to monitor buried pipework, such as running an electric current through them to identify corroded sections or using ultrasound technology to look for cracks because direct monitoring would require digging up the pipes to visually inspect them, which is a costly and time-intensive operation.

Surveyor ultrasonic robot - 250 (GEH)
A technician prepares the Surveyor robot for deployment in an underground pipe at South Texas Project (Image: GEH)

GE Hitachi (GEH) has announced its ultrasonic, self-propelled, articulated Surveyor robot has now been used to inspect the structural integrity of a section of underground pipe at the South Texas Project. Although already in use to check pipework in the oil and gas industry, GEH said this inspection marks the first deployment of the robot at a nuclear power plant.

The Surveyor robot - about 1.8 metres long - used a single access point to inspect a 9 metre length of an underground aluminium-bronze alloy service water pipe with a diameter of 15 cm. It first inspected a 3m vertical section before negotiating a 90-degree bend and then inspecting a 6m horizontal section.

GEH said the inspection of the pipe's internal diameter was completed in fewer than eight hours and required no modification to the piping system. "By contrast, inspections performed with other solutions outside of the pipe itself require time-consuming excavation that could cost up to hundreds of thousands of dollars," GEH said. "While outside-based inspections are limited to the exposed length of pipe, Surveyor is capable of inspecting an entire length of pipe."

The Surveyor robot features an umbilical cable which provides power and a live data feed to a control station. GEH says it can be used to inspect filled, partially-filled and drained pipes with a diameter of 15-120 cm.

GEH vice president of asset management services Richard Rossi said, "Underground pipes are a key component of nuclear power plants but are difficult to inspect and sometimes in accessible. This technology enables an entire length of underground pipe to be inspected without the risk and expense of excavation."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News