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Группа INTRA: двадцатилетний опыт использования робототехники в опасных условиях

18 ноября 2008
INTRA_Group copy.jpg Российская делегация и руководители группы INTRA:(слево направо) Ч.Жоли, Г.А.Новиков, А.Кошар, В.С.Крусанов, П.Айзидоржек, И.С.Феоктистов, Д.В.Бондарь INTRA_Group copy.jpg

Группа INTRA является одной из крупнейших европейских аварийно-спасательных служб в атомной отрасли. За двадцать лет своего развития группа INTRA накопила богатый практический опыт успешного применения робототехники на опасных для человека участках ядерных объектов.

Не последнюю роль в аккумулировании мирового опыта в этой области играет международное сотрудничество группы INTRA с ведущими аварийно-спасательными формированиями Германии и России. Так в течение последних пяти лет сотрудничество Инженерно-технического и учебного центра робототехники (ИТУЦР) с группой INTRA выросло от взаимных ознакомительных поездок специалистов до практического участия российской робототехники в полевых демонстрационных учениях на территории Франции, о чем подробно рассказывал журнал «Безопасность окружающей среды» в предыдущих номерах.

В статье, предлагаемой сегодня вашему вниманию, руководители группы INTRA рассказывают о развитии этой организации и той дистанционно-управляемой технике, которой она располагает.

Главный конструктор ИТУЦР    В.С.Крусанов

 

GIE INTRA – FRANCE TWENTY YEARS EXPERIENCE OF REMOTE-CONTROLLED OPERATION IN HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT

GIE INTRA, B. P. N° 61, F – 37420 AVOINE

Preliminaries

The ‘Groupe INTRA (*) was created 20 years ago by the three major French nuclear operators, i.e. EDF (**), CEA (***) and AREVA with a view to put together the means to deal with accidental situations.

The mission of INTRA was later extended to measuring the radiological characteristics and their evolution in a zone affected by a nuclear accident.

These objectives lead the ‘Groupe INTRA’ to define specifications, conceive and operate a fleet of remote-controlled engines capable of intervening in accidental situations on a French nuclear site, for when humans can’t access due to high radioactivity risks.

INTRA takes into consideration the safety approach of the nuclear operators to estimate which dose has to be faced and to imagine which type of action would be requested. As a result the characteristics of the engines are deduced.

The process is continuously enriched by the experience gained through interventions performed by INTRA on request in incidental situations, i.e. situations which would have led to accidents in another context.

Since 1995, the ‘Groupe INTRA’ has been located on the EDF site of Chinon.

(*) INTRA : INTervention Robotique sur Accidents

(**) EDF : Electricité de France

(***) CEA : Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique

Engine fleet

Since 1988, different engines have been developed or adapted for the particular needs of INTRA.The present ground engine park is made up of three categories: Indoor, Outdoor and Public works engines.

  •  Indoor engine category

EOLE and EROS were developed in the framework of actions carried out inside buildings.

Two small engines, ELIOS and DRALLE, complete this engine category.

EOLE and EROS [see photo] are equipped with a remote-controlled arm. EROS is smaller and more adapted for narrow places.

EOLE and EROS used a normal coaxial cable for transmission between control desk and engine while the power is supplied to the engine by Lithium-ion batteries. The 350 meter long cable is on an on-board drum.To face radiations hardened electronics equipped both engines.

EOLE and EROS are mainly used for reconnaissance and intervention purposes indoors. Their main missions consist of reconnaissance with transmission of information like video images, ambient radioactivity level, identification of  radioactive sources, external temperature, ambient sound … EOLE is able to open or to close doors, to open or to close valves, to turn on connectors, to recuperate solid samples, to set up different tools, to help other vehicles … EROS can recover waste materials, perform specific operations and use specific tools compatible with its intrinsic capabilities.

INTRA owns 3 EOLE and 2 EROS robots.

ELIOS and DRALLE are currently more devoted to carrying loads but they will also be equipped in the future for surveillance as well as for operations.

EOLE AND EROS INDOOR VEHICLES IN FRONT OF CONTROL DESK 

 

  • Outdoor engine category

VERI IIB and ERASE [see photo] are both equipped for surveillance and are completed with arms for operations outside of buildings. ERELT and ERELH are used for hertzian transmission relay. VERI IIB is a first generation engine while ERASE, ERELT and ERELH are of the second one and used hardened electronics. INTRA owns two examples of ERASE, ERELT and ERELH vehicles.

VERI IIB is capable of movements up to a distance of about 2 kilometres with high safety conditions. ERASE can move in remote controlled operation of distances up to 5 kilometres or more with high safety level conditions. VERI IIB and ERASE can realize gamma radioactivity mapping, identification of radioactive sources and remote inspections. It can also pick-up solid items, supervise work sites, assist other vehicles or realize small civil engineering works.

ERELT is a radio relay robot used whenever transmission difficulties between second generation engines, like ERASE, and driving desks are met. Whenever moving in a hostile area, it complements the radio relay station, in order to improve the radio electric coverage of inspected installations. The complementary vehicle ERELH is manned and placed in non hostile areas.

ERASE OUTDOOR ENGINE : OBSERVATION, OPERATION, ASSISTANCE

  • Public  works engines

EBENNE [see photo], EBULL and EPELL are classical caterpillar type engines which can be used for public works. These engines operate after the external reconnaissance machines have completed their missions.

EPELL is a remote controlled mechanical excavator with the primary missions of digging trenches, building mounds and landscaping the ground.

EBULL is mainly devoted to scrapping the soil, building mounds and landscaping the ground.

The EBENNE truck operates in conjunction with the EPELL and EBULL machines. EBENNE is designed for transporting soil and materials.


 

ERELT, REMOTE CONTROLLED RELAY ENGINE and EBENNE, PUBLIC WORKS REMOTE CONTROLLED TRANSPORT ENGINE

 


EPPB is a heavy engine, with a NBC armoured cabin, used to remote control 2 public works engines at the same time. EPPB can also be used for carrying out visual reconnaissance of sites considered hostile.

Engines of the three categories are equipped with cameras, lights, microphones, temperature transducers or radiameters. Night as well as day work are possible.

This ground engine fleet is completed by the HELINUC system developed by the CEA. This system, when loaded on board of a helicopter, enables the gamma mapping of a contaminated area.

Ready to intervene - Interventions

The organisation, based on an on call system, allows INTRA to be able to intervene within maximum 24 hours after calling.

To be efficient, the use of engines must be accompanied by:

  1. a well defined initial and periodically reinforced formation of the engine pilots.
  2. an integration in the crisis organisation, i.e. a participation to the decision level,

For each engine category, the INTRA permanent personnel is completed by pilots from different nuclear French sites. The training is insured by INTRA on its installations of Chinon. The qualification is obtained and maintained by a rigorous process.

INTRA adapts its organization, from a remote-controlled operation to the integration in the crisis organization, depending on the situation which has to be faced.

Annual crisis exercises, as well as interventions to solve incidental situations on different nuclear sites allow INTRA to test its organisation and its efficiency, and increase its experience.

In the recent years, about three interventions a year were conducted with more or less complex preparation, including tool developments and operation simulations on mock-up. They mainly concerned radiological characterisation, handling of sources like power plant filters, mechanical work like opening and cleaning of cavities in zones where access is restricted or denied to men…

Necessity for material evolutions

The feedback from these experiences, as well as the obligation to face the obsolescence and maintenance difficulties, lead INTRA to continuously improve some parts of the systems with new existing technologies.

After the second generation, ten years ago, INTRA is now developing the third one mainly for outdoor engines and pilot desks.

The evolutions under way are mainly due to the accumulated knowledge of experience, the unrelenting approach to safety and, last but not least, to the permanent technological progression.

  • Trial  feedback

The trial feedback leads to the following conclusions:

  1. a need for new means, for example a remote-controlled arm which, when suspended from a crane, allows us to intervene in wells, narrow spaces or specific platforms.
  2. a necessity to separate control desks, which must be quiet, and the data treatment desks where discussions occur and decisions are taken.
  3. a need for quick transmission of data, more particularly images, to the different crisis headquarters.
  4. a need for quick intervention, mainly in the first phase, to characterize the radioactivity situation and its evolution.
  5. a need for a flexible and modular approach, as the actual situation will always be different to the foreseen one.
  •  Approach to safety

Analysis and discussions lead the operators, the safety authority and the crisis organisation to re-evaluate the intervention conditions:

  1. the expected irradiation levels appeared overestimated. For example the electronics will be exposed at a level of 10 Gy/h and not 100 Gy/h.
  2. the outdoor engines are mainly devoted for work inside the nuclear site wherein the uncertainties of the radioactivity situation are the largest. Farther from the site the analogical video transmission is difficult due to perturbations induced by the urban and industrial environment.
  3. each accident situation requires different engines in order to be solved. Here appear two supplementary means:First,gamma monitors with direct data transmission,Second,the use of a mini-drone to characterize or to visualize the situation. This drone could also be used to transport or to deposit gamma monitors or cameras.
  4. in this instance the robotic approach is a means which can be mobilised at any moment and associated to other normal engines,
  5. finally, a mutual assistance must exist between all engines. So outdoor engines must be able to put an indoor one on its workplace. Drones and outdoor engines should be able to assist one another in the domain of transmission relay.
  • Technological progress

Technological progress today leads to solutions which did not exist twenty years ago when INTRA was created.A typical example is given by the transmissions, numerical ones being better and leading to smaller time delay in the transmissions. Indeed it is not possible to imagine the remote control of engines with a delay of a few seconds between actual situations and vision by the pilot.

The use of optical fibres, transmission by satellites and security technologies are other examples of technologies which are presently industrially developed.

Developments in progress

The technological evolutions led INTRA to improve the engine fleet with a certain emphasis on the upgrade of outdoor engines more particularly in the realm of driving.

  • Outdoor engines

The new developed equipments will be much more compact and thus easier to protect with shields.

For example, an optical fibre relay module will be placed directly on ERASE, or in a trailer to transport its own relay. Two engines are then replaced by one, i.e. ERASE which transports or tows its own relay module.

Also, the on board controller, presently used at its maximum capacity, will also be replaced by a more powerful up-to date one.

ERASE should be equipped with other devices like gamma radiameters or air analysis sensors.

The control desk for both the pilot and his co-pilot are schematically shown on the view hereafter. They can be used in a light van and rapidly put in place.

ENGINE SUPERVISION

  • Indoor engines

To insure the permanent availability of the indoor engines, their power supply must be guaranteed. That’s why a study is under way to allow the engine to be able to refill the battery on its own.

  • Specific engines

A new small engine has been acquired with a view to surveillance and operation. Its small size allows INTRA to quickly use it to procure a global overview, before deciding which engine must be placed in the field.

A second small engine has been bought for surveillance in water pools. This small engine, ELIOS type, will be equipped with a camera and is foreseen for inspection in the numerous water storage pools used in the nuclear domain.

  • Modules

These modules are mainly:

  1. the POD transmission module used for transmission relay as shown on the first schematic view joined to this paper,
  2. the EMOI module to bring indoor robots on site, towed by outdoor robots.

These modules, still under development, will also include an optical fibre roll and unroll up mechanism mounted on the engine with a cable capacity of about 3 km.

  • Data treatment

To visualize the radioactivity evolution in the surroundings of the accident zone, INTRA acquired gamma monitors with direct transmission of the local radioactivity, as well as the geographical situation. These gamma sensors are positioned by INTRA, manually or by outdoor engines and the data are treated at a distance before its transmission to people involved in the crisis organisation. These data will allow, for example, for decisions to be made on population restauration.

General conclusion

For 20 years, INTRA has maintained in operation a remote controlled engine fleet to react to accidents in the nuclear industry. This fleet has proved its reliability and its capacity to intervene in a short time to solve situations.

The interventions performed, putting INTRA in actual situations, as well as the exercises, allowing the application of the prepared crisis organisation, have increased our knowledge base, and have led to improving the engines.

The constant contacts with our colleagues from Germany and Russia reinforce this knowledge and these improvements.

This experience feedback leads INTRA to the organization of periodic workshops ans demonstration day.

In the future, new materials like gamma monitors or drones will complete the existing engines and will allow for a better approach to real solutions for confronting incidents or accidents.

In order to keep the robotic fleet ready to intervene and available for a long time, a permanent adaptation to technology evolutions is absolutely necessary as well as maintaining the high level of pilots’ skills.


Evolution includes the flexibility of our organisation, the components modularity, the association between engines themselves, between engines and manned activity or information transmission systems, including transmission to headquarters of the crisis centres..