Orano is offering a virtual tour of reactor buildings to visitors at the WNE, the world’s leading exhibition of the civil nuclear industry, taking place through June 28 at Paris Nord Villepinte. This driving simulator for a polar crane—the handling crane used to move heavy loads above a reactor—represents a major innovation.
“This simulation module meets a tangible need faced by electric companies,” explains Adeline Auzou, Digital developments manager, technical and innovation department, Orano DS, the subsidiary dedicated to dismantling activities and services for nuclear operators. “It pursues two goals: on the one hand, improving and accelerating the training of future crane operators; on the other, enhancing the skills of trained technicians by enabling them to practice outside of reactor shutdown periods.” For electric companies, training is an even more crucial issue since, in France, there are only 150 crane operators certified to work a polar crane.
In terms of design, the simulator can take on two forms—either a physical cabin weighing 700 kilograms, equipped with seven screens, which recreates every detail of the work environment inside a crane, or a lighter version delivered through a virtual reality headset. The cabin is so realistic that it even reproduces the noise and heat characteristic of a reactor building. Crane operators receive training in several operating scenarios—placing and removing the reactor vessel head or moving the voluminous steam generators. Better yet, a virtual crane spotter, powered by artificial intelligence, guides loads just like in real life.