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Maintaining open communication in a nuclear plant

Company:

EDF Energy, part of the EDF Group and one of Europe’s largest energy groups, generates one fifth of the UK’s electricity, supplying 5.5 million residents and businesses with electricity and gas. It operates eight nuclear power stations in the UK that have a combined capacity of over 8.8 million kilowatts.

Issue:

Based in Romney Marsh, Kent, EDF Dungeness is a nuclear power station consisting of two 615MW advanced gas-cooled reactors. Its 1.04 million kilowatts net electrical output is capable of supplying electricity to more than 1.5 million homes in the UK.

Before the fuel is loaded into a reactor to begin the nuclear fission process and the generation of electricity, fuel assemblies, transported from a fabrication facility, must be inspected and stored in a fuel pool building.

Using remote controlled manipulator cranes, the fuel assemblies are lifted out of their highly protective containers and meticulously checked for any imperfections or deficiencies. Once passed, the cranes then lower the assemblies into fuel pool racks, where it is stored before insertion into the reactor core.

The process of moving each fuel assembly into to the storage pool is a three person operation. Using a mobile remote control unit, the crane operator lowers the assemblies into the rack where it is guided into place by a colleague. A plant supervisor watches over this procedure from a central position.

Because of the dangerous nature of the radioactive product any load drop can seriously compromise safety and prove costly. To ensure this procedure is carried out accurately and safely, a constant three-way dialogue between the nuclear plant employees is essential.

To meet these communication demands, EDF Energy required a robust, clear, wireless talk back system that could operate within a noisy industrial environment for long periods. The company approached Wood & Douglas to provide the solution.

Solution:

Designed for the broadcast industry and previously installed in major TV studios in Britain, Wood & Douglas deployed the Symphony Intercom Full Duplex Base Station to deliver a three-way communication between the crane operator, fuel pool agent and the plant supervisor. Operating over multiple channels, the Symphony can communicate with individuals or several operatives at once while its high quality, low distortion audio eliminates fatigue associated with operation over long periods.

Working in tandem with the Symphony base station is the Duo Studio Intercom Duplex. Compact and lightweight, it slots into a belt pouch worn by the crane and fuel pool operators. Connecting to a headset with a boom microphone, the Duo uses push-to-talk technology for two-way communication. Transmitted across a narrow FM band, it delivers a crisp and clear audio, essential in the noisy plant environment, although it also offers operation over multiple frequencies.

With a battery life of 10 hours from one pair of AA batteries, the Duo has an extended operational time and a built-in visual and audible low-battery indicator so the Duplex’s power will never fail unexpectedly during critical moments.

With the robust and reliable Symphony and Duo system installed, the nuclear plant operatives can communicate easily and efficiently, ensuring the docking of the fuel assemblies are carried out swiftly and safely, avoiding any potential accidents in the process.

  • Critical wireless two-way audio transmission between the nuclear plant operatives
  • Working off a narrow FM band, the system delivers crisp and clear audio
  • Low distortion eliminates operation fatigue over long periods

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