Published on September 5th, 2019 | by Emergent Enterprise0
VR is Allowing Nuclear Plants to Simulate Control Rooms
Are there many places more dangerous than a nuclear power plant. As Mark Jones of T_HQ points out thats why VR training is taking hold in the nuclear power industry. VR allows these companies to simulate endless work scenarios – both good and bad – that don’t put an employee at risk and jeopardize the community or the world. Sounds like a good “ROI” for the training to me.
Photo source: Shutterstock
When it comes to industrial safety, it’s of little surprise (and quite a relief) to know that the nuclear industry is leading.
It has to, of course— and that means enormous amounts of money are spent yearly on optimizing procedures and ensuring the design and validation of equipment. Around the world, nuclear power plant operators act according to strict manuals. The goal is to maximize safety and efficiency— and nothing is left to chance.
VR for training in the nuclear industry
The way personnel is able to interact with machines plays a big part of that and, like many other industries, the nuclear power sector is experimenting with how Virtual Reality (VR) can provide a platform for simulating these interactions, particularly when it comes to personnel training.
Fortum is one of the largest power generation companies in the Nordics, and is utilizing the power of VR training to prepare its workers for conducting the plant’s meticulous day-to-day operations, immersing them in simulated workplace environments.
The VR deployment is being led by Joakim Bergroth, an expert in human factor engineering with 10 year’s experience in the nuclear power field. As product lead at Fortum eSite— an internal venture which provides industrial-grade VR training solutions for the firm and other partners— Bergroth is tasked with introducing new technologies, such as VR and AR, into daily use at nuclear power plants, and other safety-critical environments.
“In safety-critical environments and process industries, human errors can lead to serious accidents and production losses,” said Bergroth.
“Millions of euros are used to build physical simulators where operators can practice different scenarios from small disturbances, such as pipe leakages, to serve accident training. The physical simulators are usually fully booked, which doesn’t leave much time for additional testing or evaluations.”
As such, Bergroth is involved in creating the world’s first “fully dynamic and interactive” VR control room.
VR nuclear control room
The VR control room is situated at its site in Loviisa, Finland. With 90 percent of the site’s personnel having already undergone VR training, the plant is now ready to take VR training into daily deployment.
In such a safety-oriented industry, there is a razor-thin margin for error, but it is difficult to do a lot of training time to real-world equipment which must be fully operational and supervised around the clock. Previously, the solution would have been to build exact, functional replicas of control rooms— or physical simulators— but this can be a massively costly exercise. VR allows these environments to be recreated virtually, offering large cost savings and the ability to quickly implement changes.
“The cost of a VR simulator is one-tenth of the cost of building a physical simulator,” said Bergroth. “And with the Varjo VR-1, the visual fidelity of our virtual simulator is finally on level that it should be.”
Fortum’s Loviisa production plant. Source: Fortum
The VR-1 is the creation of Finnish VR startup Varjo, which gained recognition last year for its headset whose resolution could match that of the human eye. On using the headset, Bergroth said he immediately saw the potential for training and design validation.