Thursday, June 3, 2021

Pickering Goes Wireless

Share this article:

EPRI and Ontario Power Generation Collaborate on Deployment of Wireless Sensors to Modernize Nuclear Fleet

Drawing on extensive EPRI research, Ontario Power Generation (OPG) deployed and tested its first wireless sensor network as part of a pilot project at Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. The effort was an important step in OPG’s plant modernization initiative, which aims to continuously monitor plant conditions to drive analytics and predictive maintenance across the utility’s 6.6-gigawatt nuclear fleet. OPG plans to dramatically expand its sensor network, expecting it to save 36,000 man-hours.

EPRI’s survey of commercially available wireless sensors informed OPG’s consideration of various options’ features and capabilities. OPG then used EPRI’s engineering guide to support installation of 12 wireless sensors at 6 locations in Pickering’s unit 5 reactor. One set of sensors monitored vibration, ambient temperature, and humidity on a condenser cooling water pump and motor. Another set of sensors on standby generator batteries monitored voltage, humidity inside the battery cabinets, and ambient temperature. Other sensors were installed on pumps and motors.

After four months of testing, the main takeaway was that the sensors reliably collected and transmitted information about equipment operations. “We demonstrated that the sensors were not causing any malfunction on the critical equipment in Pickering,” said Abuzafar Ali, Pickering’s section manager for nuclear engineering.

OPG has established a Monitoring and Diagnostic (M&D) Center at Pickering, where analysts use advanced pattern recognition to analyze sensor data and identify when equipment is operating as expected or abnormally. The company aims to deploy enough wireless sensors to implement continuous monitoring of equipment at its Pickering and Darlington nuclear power plants, driving insights on maintenance and operations at M&D Centers. Wireless sensors can transmit data to a central location at a fraction of the cost of wired sensors.

“We have a lot of wired sensors at Pickering now,” said Abuzafar. “However, because the M&D Center wants to continuously monitor all plant operations, we need more coverage in the plant and more data. That drove the need for wireless sensors.”

OPG plans to install several thousand wireless sensors at the Pickering and Darlington plants over the next several years. When that is complete, Abuzafar believes that OPG will be able to transition from scheduled equipment inspection to predictive maintenance. The new capabilities will equip plant staff to prioritize equipment repairs and replacements. OPG estimates that the addition of these sensors will save about 36,000 hours in operations, maintenance, and engineering work.

Key EPRI Technical Experts:

Rob Austin, Steve Lopez
For more information, contact

Photo of Pickering Nuclear Generating Station courtesy of Ontario Power Generation