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Mini-ROVs: The Coal-Fired and Nuclear Power Plant Inspection Solution

To some people, applications for remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) in energy production facilities such as offshore oil platforms or hydroelectric dams may seem obvious. Such structures are either built on water or directly use water to create energy. However, many people may not know that ROVs can be very useful in monitoring and maintaining other forms of energy production as well. Energy production facilities that use nuclear reactors or burn coal to create electricity have numerous components that can be inspected using ROVs.

Before discovering how an ROV can be useful in coal and nuclear plants, it is important to understand how each type of facility operates and the main components of each production system.

Coal-Fired Power Plants


Coal is pulverized into powder so that it burns faster. It is then mixed with hot air and blown into the boiler’s firebox. This creates heat. Highly purified water is pumped through pipes inside this boiler and turned to steam by the heat. This is piped into a turbine causing its blades to turn the shaft. The turbine shaft is connected to the generator shaft, where magnets spin within wire coils to produce electricity.

Once the steam passes the turbine shaft it is drawn into a condenser. During this step, millions of gallons of cool water from a nearby source (like a reservoir, river or lake) are pumped through a network of tubes running through the condenser. This cooler water converts the steam back into a liquid state and that can be used over and over again in the plant. The cooling water is returned to its source without any contamination. The condensed water is returned to the boiler to repeat the cycle.

Nuclear Energy Plants

nuclear power plant

Much like coal fired plants, nuclear energy plants use steam to spin turbines that are connected to a generator to produce electricity. The main difference is, instead of burning coal to heat the intake water and turn it to steam, it is run through a nuclear reactor vessel. Once the steam passes through the turbines it makes the blades spin and prompts the generator to create power. This steam is again drawn into a condenser just like in coal plants. Gallons of cool water are pumped in from a nearby source to cool the steam and prepare it to run through the process again.

So where do the ROVs come in?

Those are the basics of how energy production facilities work. Now it’s time to explore the ways that ROVs like the Deep Trekker DTG2 unit can be helpful in energy production.

Large portions of these facilities use water flow and tanks to operate smoothly. From the cooling system intakes to the outflows to the condensers, inspections need to be performed to mitigate any structural damage caused by wear and tear over time.

At times a component of the plant may not be operating properly. This can include the intake or an outflow being blocked or clogged, a condenser may not functioning properly, or the tubes connecting components are blocked. Emptying the tanks and tubes of water is often not an option because of the high volume of heat produced and running through the rest of the system.

An alternative is needed to perform urgent inspections and repairs. Utilizing divers to perform inspections is dangerous and usually not an option. Extremely high temperatures, confined spaces and dangerous levels of radiation (in the nuclear plants) mean that divers are not a feasible option for inspections. ROVs like Deep Trekker's DTG2 can be the perfect solution.

Talk to us about how we can help you perform inspections of submerged assets with ROVs

Contact Industry Specialist

Deep Trekker ROVs have been strategically and effectively used in a variety of energy production plants to perform inspections like the ones described above. A Deep Trekker DTG2 ROV was even used to visually assess the interior of a nuclear reactor vessel in an urgent inspection situation. To read more about this specific project, follow this link.

Deep Trekker ROVs provide advantages over other ROV systems involving energy production facility inspections. The absolute portability and long life on-board batteries designed into Deep Trekker systems mean no additional generators or external power is required. This makes inspections in awkward or isolated areas within the plant possible without hassle or intense preparation. The unique design of Deep Trekker systems adds a level of ease to piloting the ROV throughout the facility not achievable with other ROV systems.

The patented pitching system on a DTG2 ROV propels it forward, backwards, side-to-side and up and down utilizing only two thrusters. The unique design also allows for maximum thrust regardless of the direction the system is moving. Piloting a Deep Trekker ROV through the pipe networks and tank systems becomes simple.

Click here to read more about how others are using Deep Trekker ROVs in the energy industry.

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