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French Nuclear Plant Service Provider Tracks Containers Via RFID

SPIE Nucléaire is using handheld readers to record the locations and conditions of equipment containers that it has fitted with passive UHF tags.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 20, 2014

French nuclear plant service provider SPIE Nucléaire is employing radio frequency identification to locate containers at the Centre Nucléaire de Production d' Electricité (EDF CNPE) nuclear power plant in Fessenheim, France, and is creating and managing records not only about where those containers are, but also any status changes related to radiation levels (which must be managed according to regulations).The system, provided by RFID technology company Nexess Solutions, using Xerafy passive EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags, has reduced the amount of time staff members spend locating containers by 70 percent, and the time used by regulatory agents to prepare reports by 80 percent. This has led to a 60 percent improvement in overall forklift operator efficiency, SPIE reports, and a 50 percent gain in storage space efficiency. The system was taken live during the fourth quarter of 2013.

SPIE is a logistics and maintenance provider for nuclear facilities, including the one in Fessenheim, for which it manages hundreds of large metal containers used to store tools, supplies and equipment for the plant's management. SPIE's task includes ensuring containers can be quickly located by nuclear plant personnel and inspection agents, and that they are moved as needed by either party.

A worker at the CNPE nuclear power plant in Fessenheim, France, uses a Psion handheld to read a container's Xerafy tag.
SPIE also ensures that the containers—which are loaded with hand tools, ladders, lifting equipment and other items—are in their proper locations. This requires that SPIE work closely with plant managers to anticipate the containers' usage and stage them accordingly. For instance, a container that will be required the following day should not have others stacked on top of it.

Prior to adopting the RFID-based solution, SPIE tracked containers' locations via a blackboard filled with Post-it notes, each representing a particular container's location within the facility. The data was also managed on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.

When containers needed to be moved, forklift operators were given a piece of paper indicating those containers' ID numbers and locations, or they might receive a phone call if an order came in while they were already moving around the facility. Inspectors arrived onsite with pen and paper, as well as a device for measuring radioactivity. They then wrote down each container's location, along with the results of the radioactivity measurements, and later input that data into a computer and shared it with SPIE.

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