Employees in yellow and white hazmat suits lift a pipe into place
The project team inspecting piping in the C-333 Process Building lift the robotic pipe crawler into place.

PADUCAH, Ky. — Identifying which sections of piping to be removed from the C-333 Process Building at EM’s Paducah Site can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

With more than 20 miles of piping, some of which is as large as 42 inches in diameter, the Paducah project team recently deployed a new tool to improve the efficiency of visually inspecting sections of piping: a robotic pipe crawler.

Piping can contain deposits from past gaseous diffusion operations. As a result, some sections of piping have to be removed as crews make progress to prepare the building for future demolition.

Previously, identifying material in this piping required external scanning to pinpoint potential deposit locations for deactivation crews. This effort took many hours using manual cutting tools and additional safety measures to protect workers doing the inspections.

EMTV: Watch a video on the Paducah Site's robotic pipe crawler.

Recently deployed in over 1,000 linear feet of process piping, the robotic pipe crawler reduces the amount of time and effort to visually inspect the piping by using sophisticated detectors and a high resolution camera to identify deposits.

The project team has proven the effectiveness of the robotic pipe crawler using data from external scans in correlation with the data obtained by the machine. As work continues with the robotic pipe crawler for visual inspection of piping, identifying potential deposits is expected to gain efficiency, up to five times faster when compared to manual inspections. It will also provide data necessary to identify more accurate deposit locations and promote worker safety during deactivation where more precise deposit removal activities are needed.

“Innovation is imperative to the success of work done at the Paducah Site,” Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office Manager Joel Bradburne said. “Improving worker safety and reducing the time it takes to inspect piping in the C-333 Process Building will enable DOE to accelerate the facility for demolition and continue the successful cleanup mission at Paducah.”

A computer with 2 employees watching a video on the screen
The project team inspects piping using the robotic pipe crawler’s high resolution camera in the C-333 Process Building.

The design and process for the robotic pipe crawler came from lessons learned and shared technology, originally developed at the Portsmouth Site. Over the last year, the Paducah team made several enhancements to the robotic pipe crawler and developed methods to ensure it can support deactivation of the C-333 Process Building.

“Portsmouth provided invaluable knowledge from the lessons learned during deactivation and demolition of a process building,” said Myrna Redfield, program manager with Four Rivers Nuclear Partnership, the deactivation and remediation contractor for the Paducah Site. “The Paducah Site took the initiative to incorporate technology developed at Portsmouth into our work in the C-333 Process Building and continues to improve our ability to accomplish complex work with cutting edge technology in the DOE complex.”

-Contributor: Dylan Nichols