Ansaldo Nuclear has completed a complex refuelling operation at Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant in China.

The company provided the fuel handling machine control system (FHMCS) for Units 3 and 4 to Russian engineering firm Atommashexport for the refueling operation at the plant.

Its scope for the FHMCS included the design of the entire system, manufacture and site support both in the Russian Federation for integration tests, and in China during commissioning and first outages.

Ansaldo Nuclear said its FHMCS took 18 months to perfect and is based on microprocessor technology, conceived to increase the reliability level of the operation of the fuel handling machine.

The main features of the design are fully redundant hardware architecture and power supply, and different operating modes, such as fully automatic, semi-automatic, manual-protected and training.

The FHMCS is accompanied by a simulator for training purposes and the simulator allows simulated operations which do not generate any real movement on the machine. Ansalso said it is able to provide feedback on the real machine movements and emulate the signals coming from the reactor building in order to simulate malfunctions and emergency situations.

Andrea Bagnasco was the senior engineer for Ansaldo onsite in China and he explained:

“There are two issues that are critical to avoid during the refuelling process. The first is any disturbance to the integrity of the fuel element, while the second is the economic disruption caused to the plant as a result of unexpected delays.

“By designing, manufacturing and installing a control system which effectively streamlined the transport process, whilst protecting against any related safety issues, Ansaldo Nuclear was ultimately able to mitigate both of these threats. Using a well-proven in use hardware and software platform, our FHMCS stands out as one of the safest, most efficient and most reliable control systems in the nuclear market.”

Ansaldo Nuclear has provided control systems and site assistance for the plant’s four fuel handling machines since 2001.