A virtual journey inside a reactor at the World Nuclear Exhibition

At the World Nuclear Exhibition (WNE), Orano is presenting its polar crane driving simulator, designed to enhance operational safety and performance inside the reactor building. Here’s a look at how innovation can go hand in hand with training.
Orano is offering a virtual tour of reactor buildings to visitors at the WNE, the world’s leading exhibition of the civil nuclear industry, taking place through June 28 at Paris Nord Villepinte. This driving simulator for a polar crane—the handling crane used to move heavy loads above a reactor—represents a major innovation.

“This simulation module meets a tangible need faced by electric companies,” explains Adeline Auzou, Digital developments manager, technical and innovation department, Orano DS, the subsidiary dedicated to dismantling activities and services for nuclear operators. “It pursues two goals: on the one hand, improving and accelerating the training of future crane operators; on the other, enhancing the skills of trained technicians by enabling them to practice outside of reactor shutdown periods.” For electric companies, training is an even more crucial issue since, in France, there are only 150 crane operators certified to work a polar crane.

In terms of design, the simulator can take on two forms—either a physical cabin weighing 700 kilograms, equipped with seven screens, which recreates every detail of the work environment inside a crane, or a lighter version delivered through a virtual reality headset. The cabin is so realistic that it even reproduces the noise and heat characteristic of a reactor building. Crane operators receive training in several operating scenarios—placing and removing the reactor vessel head or moving the voluminous steam generators. Better yet, a virtual crane spotter, powered by artificial intelligence, guides loads just like in real life.

Anticipating critical operations

“Since the project’s launch in 2015, we have modeled every component in 1300 MW and 900 MW reactor buildings,” continues Adeline Auzou. By customer request, specific risk situations are regularly integrated to provide training for special operations. This was notably the case in 2017 when preparing for the removal and entry of steam generators in the Paluel nuclear plant (Seine-Maritime). “All models are developed in collaboration with crane operators, who express needs and correct simulations to make them even more realistic.”

Virtual training modules and push button switches

In addition to the simulation cabin, Orano has developed another training tool enabling technicians to don a virtual reality headset and drive the polar crane in various modules, such as one pertaining to the “push button” switch, referring to the remote control box located outside the cabin. Technicians train in an environment that is identical to real life in every way. In addition, they can even work with a crane spotter, also equipped with a VR headset.
“We are pursuing our innovation strategy by using virtual reality to improve our response to specific customer needs. This embodies our approach, focused on the performance and safety of equipment, both in France and abroad,”

says Adeline Auzou.

Trihom, Orano’s training subsidiary

  • No. 1 in training for nuclear activities in France.
  • 35,000 technicians trained every year, among nuclear operators and their service providers.
  • 15 centers and 250 training sessions in regulated fields and business expertise.

WNE #DAY3 - Adeline Auzou
WNE #DAY3 - Adeline Auzou - Digital Developments Manager at Technical & Innovation Department - Orano DS © Orano
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