Technology Update

Robot used at Fukushima for decontamination testing


A robot designed to perform maintenance and repair tasks at disaster or accident-hit power stations is being used at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

The robot is called the MEISTeR (Maintenance Equipment Integrated System of Telecontrol Robot) and has been developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

The MEISTeR has being carrying out demonstration testing at the plant, which was crippled by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

MHI says these trials have proved so successful that the robot is to be deployed to carry out decontamination and sampling tasks.

The MEISTeR is an enhanced version of a disaster response robot initially developed by MHI after an accident at the nuclear fuel processing facility in Tokaimura, Ibaraki Prefecture, in 1999. The improvements to the robot were developed with the intention to deploy it at Fukushima Daiichi and were implemented in co-operation with the plant’s owner Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning.

MHI said that the robot was “significantly improved in terms of radioactive resistance and remote control capability, making it adaptable to performing a variety of tasks in highly radioactive locations”. The company added that, until now, most disaster response robots have primarily performed inspection, maintenance and similar tasks relying on cameras.

However, the MEISTeR can switch between tasks by changing the tools attached to its arms. In addition to inspection and maintenance, the MEISTeR can perform decontamination work, concrete core sampling, and the cutting of obstacles blocking pathways.

GE opens wind turbine repair lab in New York


GE has opened a global wind turbine drivetrain repair innovation lab at its US Power Generation Repair Technology Center.

The facility in New York is equipped with technologies to support fast development and innovation for repairs to turbine gearboxes and rotors, which GE says creates “a lab environment to simulate and solve problems that previously had to be worked on more than 100 metres in the air and at remote sites”.

Technical capabilities of the Innovation Lab include rapid prototyping tools such as 3D printers and computer numerical control machines; robotic welding and advanced machining tools; and repair of various gearbox models and turbine generators.

Andy Holt, general manager of global wind projects and services, said: “This is the first facility of its kind dedicated to developing repair technologies and capabilities that reduce the lifecycle cost of wind turbines.

Radar technology deal will ‘unlock 2 GW of new UK wind energy’


Wind power developers Vattenfall and SSE have signed a ‘pioneering’ radar deal with air traffic control company NATS which they claim “could unlock up to 2.2 GW of potential new wind energy across the UK”.

NATS must be consulted on all wind turbine applications in the UK and it is forced to object to around 2 per cent of cases because the proposed turbines would interfere with radar signals ” turbine blades can appear as ‘clutter’ on radar screens and be mistaken for aircraft by air traffic controllers.

The deal between NATS and SSE and Vattenfall will result in a technical modification being made to two radar sites to rectify this problem, a move all three parties believe will result in more wind farm applications being granted planning consent.

NATS chief executive Richard Deakin said: “This is a landmark agreement that heralds a significant technical advance in mitigating the radar interference from wind turbines. It unlocks significant potential for wind-based power generation and for the UK in meeting its carbon reduction targets.”

He said NATS had been “committed to working across the industry to find a way of unlocking this new power while ensuring aviation safety” and hailed the deal as “a fantastic result”.

Colin Nicol, director of onshore renewables at SSE, said the agreement was “a positive collaboration between two sectors working together in partnership through innovation”, while Piers Guy, head of development for Vattenfall UK, said it would “benefit the whole industry by unlocking the potential of gigawatts of otherwise stalled wind power capacity”. He added: “This new capacity would generate well over a billion pounds of new investment, creating hundreds of jobs and significantly boosting UK renewable energy production.

“We are very pleased to be part of such an exciting initiative which has brought the aviation and energy industry together to successfully tackle a UK wide problem and I would like to thank everyone for their commitment to delivering this safe and cost effective solution.”

AUMA launches explosion-proof actuator


AUMA has launched its hazardous environment SQEx .2 part-turn actuator, an explosion-proof version of its SQ actuator.

In line with qualification requirements for hazardous environments, the SQEx .2 meets the European ATEX and International IECEx standards and will be submitted for certification in additional countries including the Russian Federation, the US, Japan and Canada.

An explosion-proof SQREx version for modulating duty is now also available from AUMA, providing enhanced positioning accuracy and an increased number of permissible starts per hour.

Designed for butterfly and ball valve automation, the SQ and SQEx ranges replace AUMA’s established SG and SGExC part-turn actuator ranges. AUMU says the new series offers a significantly wider torque range, covering 50 Nm to 2,400 Nm. Further enhancements also include sophisticated diagnostics and asset management functionality.

E Instruments unveils rugged hand-held combustion analyzer

E Instruments

US-headquartered E Instruments has launched its E4400 hand-held combustion analyzer.

E Instruments said the analyzer is “a rugged unit for boiler, burner, engine, turbine, furnace, and other combustion applications. Pre-calibrated and field replaceable sensors allow for easy diagnostics and replacements to reduce ‘downtime’ and costly repair charges”.

Features include a built-in printer, rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack and unbreakable metal hose connectors.

Grundfos hails launch of pump motor

Grundfos has released what it claims to be one of the most intelligent and energy-efficient pump motors in the world.

It has unveiled a line of MGE and MLE motors with integrated frequency converters up to and including 2.2 kW.

“Customers will get a standard product that consumes less energy than ever seen before within these kinds of motors,” said Preben Poulsen, Grundfos program manager of motors and drives. The MGE/MLE upgrades are the first generation of IE4 motors in Grundfos Blueflux pumps driven electronically via a built-in ‘intelligent’ frequency converter. Frequency converters can automatically control motor speeds after actual demand, whereas standard pumps run at either full speed or off.

The new motors are currently available for solutions up to 2.2 kW.

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