From 2016 to 2019, when you walked into the Technical Training Center in Lynchburg, Va., you couldn’t miss it — it was big, blue and had quite the footprint. Customers, employees, students and interns — even a United States Senator from Virginia — all had the chance to witness our Stearns Roger Services (SRS) team design, build and test two custom, automated refueling platforms for a customer.

The SRS team successfully completed site acceptance testing (SAT) of the Unit 2 refueling platform and turned the system over to the customer at site. This recent milestone followed successful SAT and turnover of the Unit 1 refueling platform in January 2019.

Plant operators at the utility’s site needed to address challenges associated with plant aging, including how to maintain reliable performance with existing refueling machines. That’s where SRS came in to provide safe and competitive solutions to our long-time customer. When the customer decided to replace the refueling platforms in Units 1 and 2, our team helped not only address long-term operations issues like degradation of aging components and obsolescence of spare parts, but also enabled the plant to add several enhancements to increase the efficiency and reliability of fuel movement during outages, including:

  • Touchscreen controls replacing the manual push buttons and toggle switches to improve human performance and bridge reliability, and reduce error conditions
  • New main hoist that doubles the speed of vertical fuel movements
  • A lower platform that was enlarged from three to seven feet wide to provide a safer working environment
  • A safer upper platform for maintenance of the hoists and associated equipment
  • Additional shielding to support ALARA
  • Cybersecurity with additional safety system monitoring

Also, as part of the project, the SRS team developed innovative software to enable real-time fuel tracking and movement path generation.

The new Unit 1 refueling platform was used successfully for spent fuel cask loading and new fuel receipt campaigns and has gone through its first outage, loading in Framatome’s ATRIUM 11 fuel — the most advanced BWR fuel on the market today. The Unit 2 refueling platform will have its first outage in March 2021.