How innovation is snaking its way into the core of nuclear energy culture

It doesn’t have the ring of Ready, Set, Go or Lights, Camera, Action. But...

Batteries charged, Motor functions validated, Cameras online, sounds like innovation within the Duke Energy nuclear fleet.

After working through those quick steps, our Guardian® S robot is ready for action. Whether it is needed to squeeze into small spaces like trenches or pipes, climb I-beams or other steel equipment or inspect hard to access areas, this savvy snake-like robot carries various sensors and payloads to provide real-time detection and visual information while keeping our teammates out of harm’s way.

LMo 2
While drones are great for open spaces, L-Mo is more of a wallflower. It climbs vertical magnetic surfaces and snakes into confined spaces.

The Guardian® S, we affectionately call L-Mo (short for Linear Motorized Observer) within the Duke Energy Nuclear Fleet, was recently used to perform a drainpipe inspection. The cameras and live feed L-Mo provided allowed employees to look at coatings and breakdowns in the metal, while documenting where in the pipe each deficiency was based on its onboard odometer – all without employees having to enter the pipe to collect the data.

“Using L-Mo is a safer, more efficient way to preform inspections in many different cases at our nuclear stations,” says Kevin Martin, Nuclear Maintenance supervisor at McGuire Nuclear Station.

Innovation isn’t just about a great idea; it’s about proper implementation. Jim Louy, a director in nuclear and L-Mo team lead is “looking forward to it being second nature to pull L-Mo off the shelf to use.” He likens its use to how we used to have to make a conscious decision to put on a seatbelt. “Now we automatically put it on without thinking about it as a safety device we should be using,” he says.

“When it comes to embracing innovation, we can lead, follow, or be left behind. Innovation will come. I prefer to lead.” -Tom Ray, McGuire Nuclear Station site Vice President

L-Mo’s team is optimistic that there will be many more ways to use the tool in the future.

The great thing about innovation is that it never stops. It may start with a good idea that supports a current need, but it shouldn’t stop there. Creating a true culture of innovation, like Duke Energy is doing throughout our nuclear fleet, requires embracing change.

Now, we know that’s easier said than done. What does it look like to embrace innovation in nuclear energy?

L-Mo isn’t the only new tool in our toolbelt. Duke Energy has created and implemented a constantly evolving suite of apps and programs that has already improved the efficiency of our planning team and enabled maintenance technicians to prepare for work anytime, anywhere. The introduction of our drone program provides a way for our nuclear workers to perform tasks more safely.

Duke Energy released its aggressive climate goals in 2020, placing an emphasis on innovation. No matter the scale, it’s imperative to our culture that we continue finding innovative ways to generate the clean, life-essential electricity our communities depend on.

Brian Marrow, director of nuclear innovation puts it this way: “Innovation isn’t a one-time thing, it’s constant improvement. Some might say an evolution.”

Comments (1)

Posted May 03, 2021 by Bharath Nangia
Awesome to see the culture of innovation! All the best!

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