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Darlington Refurbishment Project News

Capturing accuracy through a lens with blue light innovation

Have you ever taken a photo you didn’t like? Nowadays, taking an eye-catching picture is as simple as picking up your smartphone. But for contractors working on OPG’s $12.8 billion Darlington Refurbishment project, taking an accurate photo is much more important than how compelling it is.

The blue light visual alignment system.
The blue light visual alignment system.

“People might think nuclear power generation and photography don’t mix much,” says Kevin Hill, Tooling Oversight Coordinator – Electrical and Controls at OPG. “But in actuality, we use cameras and imaging technology to help perform complex technical work in the reactor.”

Staff will be using a Vision Alignment System, a precise tool that needs to robotically align with exact positions on the reactor face to execute discrete precision work. It’s a tremendous task considering the reactor’s 480 channels and hundreds of tube locations.

However, the imaging hasn’t always been foolproof. “You could say it comes down to the photographer,” says Hill. “In the past, we used a red light sensor system to target the sites, which was generally very reliable. However, we would occasionally get blurred or inaccurate shots, and our only option was to keep reshooting until it gave us a useable image.”

ATS Automation, an OPG contractor based in Cambridge, Ontario, recommended a solution: the blue light visual alignment system. Inspired by the manufacturing industry, the software takes images with blue light, a less-prominent alternative to ambient light. As a result, the camera is able to produce sharper, more accurate images on the first try.

“It’s like night and day,” says Hill. “We aren’t worrying about glare and reflection nearly as much, and as a result, we’re saving a lot of time.”

To further reduce the risk of error, the company installed a specialized camera to target only that colour in the spectrum. Although the switch from red to blue light may seem trivial, it will have a big impact on the refurbishment and to workers.

More than 60 companies from across Ontario are working with OPG to deliver Canada’s largest clean energy project. Made-in-Ontario innovations like the blue light system will ensure quality performance and schedule adherence, two of the project’s key pillars.