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Teamwork and Innovation Win TVA Top Energy Award

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) recently won the Nuclear Energy Institute’s Top Innovative Practice award for an inventive method of replacing three school-bus-sized feedwater heater bundles at their Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant. We were proud to work with the TVA on this project and to help devise a method that not only won an award, but helped them save time and money.

The project took place during a refueling outage at the plant. The three heaters, which were 45’ long and 35 ½ tons each, had to be moved out of turbine building through the service building to the outside.

Conventional methods to remove the heaters such as slide rails, powered rollers, and simple crane and rigging devices weren’t an option. An alternative method had to be devised to move the heaters through the building without overloading the building structure.

The Browns Ferry and Barnhart teams developed two remote-controlled, low-profile vehicles, known as SoftTrac Crawlers. The crawlers were maneuverable and could be steered from both ends, plus the wheel bases could be adjusted independently. This enabled the crew to navigate the heaters through the turns required to get through two buildings. See the SoftTrac in action in this video.

According to Ashley Michael, implementation lead at Browns Ferry, “The benefit to the TVA in using the SoftTrac Crawlers is that it took about half the time of a conventional rigging and lifting method and allowed us to complete our outage work seven days early. Completing early means less time in the field and less risk to our employees and craftsman. I’m proud of the team and how we worked together to overcome this challenge.”

Barnhart’s experience in the nuclear industry extends to engineered lifting solutions, major component replacement, transport of radioactive components and outage support. We are thankful to the TVA for the opportunity to participate on this award-winning project.