Automated Fabrication of AHWR Fuel in Shielded Cells: Challenges and Initiatives
With the growing demand of various innovative reactor designs and use of thorium as fuel, importance of automation for fuel fabrication is realized. In order to handle the fuel remotely during its fabrication cycle, various stages of its fabrication are required to be automated. A first of its kind, full-scale mock-up facility is recently developed at BARC to demonstrate automated fabrication, inspection and handling of (Th-233U)-based fuel pins. In order to optimize the operations and to avoid spread of contamination, equipments in the facility are arranged in multiple interconnected shielded cells. One of the major challenges in handling of such fuel pin is requirement of intra-cell and inter-cell autonomous transfer of long fuel pins. This paper describes a uniquely designed rail-guided vehicle, which automatically triggers opening and closing of heavily shielded inter-cell door during intra-cell material transfer. Further, in this paper, the concept of dual robotic arms for precise handling of pins during its fabrication is presented. All the quality inspection tests are performed remotely and autonomously. Results of the inspection are available online at control station, and operator is alerted when monitored parameters go beyond the acceptable tolerance band. In order to avoid radiation damage to electronic components, controllers and data acquisition system are located outside the cells. Novel methods presented in this paper produced consistent results with considerable reliability during mock-up trials, thus ensuring their suitability for the real system.
KeywordsAHWR U-233 Thorium Automated fuel fabrication
Implementation of such large and complex system would not have been possible, if we did not have a support of many individuals and organizations. Authors hereby duly acknowledge support and guidance from Shri Arun Kumar, Ex-Director, Nuclear Fuels Group and Dr D. N. Badodkar, Associate Director, Design, Manufacturing and Automation Group for development of the system. We are also thankful to Shri R C Sharma, Ex-Director, Reactor Group for giving us permission to install the system in Reactor Group premises. We thankfully acknowledge support from all staff members of Division of Remote Handling and Robotics, Nuclear Fuels Group and Reactor Group.
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