Argentina invests in virtual application for SMR

Argentina invests in virtual application for SMR

Researchers from Media.Lab developed a virtual reality software to visit the facilities of the Carem reactor, which is being built in the Atucha atomic complex .

The CAREM (Central Argentina of Modular Elements ) is a reactor of 25 megawatts (MW) of power that can be combined with up to four modules to a 100 MW power plant. Currently, it is the only nuclear power plant that is under construction in Argentina and the work is expected to be completed by 2020.

The Government’s interest in this plant is based on the fact that CAREM  is considered as a development for export. With this objective, a company integrated by the National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA), INVAP and Nucleoeléctrica Argentina (NA-SA, the operator of the three nuclear power plants of Argentina) would seek to market this development worldwide.

The CAREM is being built since 2014 in the Atucha complex , in Lima (Province of Buenos Aires) and is a small modular reactor that provides 70% of local integration, components and services. Its characteristics make it ideal for power supply in areas far from large urban centers -where geographical conditions or climate make it difficult to transport fuel and power lines- or high-energy manufacturing poles, in addition to offering other benefits such as desalination and steam supply for various industrial uses.

The Media.Lab already has a track record in developing simulators  for oil drilling, operation of excavators and  driving underground trains. In this case, Media.Lab is developing two sets of applications that consist of the design of the nuclear island, which will be used for the training of the technicians and operators who work in the plant once it is finished, and an additional tool for the team of design and engineering, which allows to explore the components of the reactor virtually in three dimensions and dismantle its various parts.

Two different command centers can be used for the two applications: a CAVE (acronym in English for  computer-assisted virtual environment ), where several people can enter, and an immersive position consisting of a personal cubicle in which the user uses a virtual reality helmet and joysticks.

In the case of the application for operators, the importance of being able to be trained and knowing the details of the facilities before entering into operation with the already operational reactor is that once the radiation exposure times are up, they must be controlled. In this way, the simulation tool gives them the security of being able to train everything necessary without exposure to radiation.

All control systems are contained within the pressure vessel where the reactor is located, which allows it to dispense with external pumps to be controlled. This makes it a reactor that gains a lot of security compared to other designs, since, in addition, it is regulated by physical principles such as gravity and the difference in the density of materials at different temperatures. Its characteristics would allow it to avoid the risks that arise in conventional nuclear reactors after a power cut.

As for the simulation of the CAREM facilities for the training of technicians and operators, work is still underway to develop, in approximately two months, a CAVE and a personal immersive post at the Atomic Center of Bariloche.

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Arnaud Lefevre

Arnaud Lefevre is the Chief Executive Officer of Dynatom International. Arnaud is in charge of the international development of the business portfolio.