Laser Scanning Solves Piping Problem at Nuclear Power Plant

The Leica scanners were capable of capturing full-volume, 360-degree, 3D point clouds in about three minutes. Some rooms required only a single setup, which resulted in minimal exposure times to the harsh nuclear environment.

How can you safely assess potential corrosion in critical pipe systems in a pressurized water reactor? This was the question facing one nuclear power plant. Identifying the high points and installing vents would alleviate any trapped gas, but manual methods would expose personnel to high levels of radiation, potential contamination and unsafe processes using ladders and scaffolding.

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The solution was to use 3D laser scanning. While wearing full radiation-protection suits, Exact Metrology personnel scanned piping in more than two dozen rooms throughout the power plant, using Leica P-Series professional-grade laser scanners. The Leica Geosystems scanners were capable of capturing full-volume, 360-degree, 3D point clouds in about three minutes. Some rooms required only a single setup, which resulted in minimal exposure times to the harsh nuclear environment. Once a scan is initiated, the data acquisition is completely automated, allowing the metrologist to retreat to low-dose areas while critical data continue to be captured by the scanner.
Software algorithms then provided a function to extract all pipe sizes, centerline, and position, even when only part of the pipes were scanned. As an added benefit, the dense point cloud obtained revealed areas of crystallization, which indicated that leaks in the pipes were already in progress.
Once scanning was completed, 3D CAD models were generated, and computer snapshots were recorded with elevation descriptors marked on each side of the pipe runs. The report showed a graphical description of the model pipes with the elevation provided in a PDF format. These reports were sent to the facility engineers to determine if there was a need to install vents at specific locations on the pipe runs.
(Related: Watch this video to see how laser scan point clouds put your plant at your fingertips.)

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