INVAP has designed and built a series of automatic and semi-automatic machines and tools called REMA (“REpair and MAintenance”), capable of accessing and operating in environments that are hostile, due to temperature, pressure, radiation or other conditions. Thus, a hermetically sealed industrial facility may be operated and repaired from inside.
The service is provided with custom-designed robots and tools. INVAP has a vast experience in using REMA in nuclear plants and in complex equipments used in the chemical, petrochemical and pharmaceutical industries.
In 1987, INVAP carried out one of its first jobs with telemanipulators. Atucha I Nuclear Plant had to shut down due to a fuel element failure. It was necessary to clean this highly radioactive and inaccessible site in order to repair the central core. In the context of a national energetic crisis, the National Atomic Energy Authority (CNEA) requested a quote for repair service to KWU-Siemens, which originally provided the reactor: the cost was estimated in 200 million US dollars (half the price of the turnkey plant).
In view of this situation, CNEA’s President, Dr. Emma Pérez Ferreyra, decided to undertake the repair job with own resources. Under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), experts from CNEA and INVAP carried out the cleaning and repairing of the damaged parts inside the pressure vessel without opening it, using only the entry holes foreseen by design.
The process was performed by tele-commanded tools designed by INVAP. The total cost was of only 17 million US dollars. Later on, in 1997, it was necessary to completely repair Atucha I moderator coolers, and REMA tools were again successfully used – some of them now completely robotized.