Costain is helping develop an innovative system for use in the nuclear industry as part of an initiative to bring forward new technology in the sector.

The Government‘s Technology Strategy Board has provided £70,000 – together with internal funding from Costain – to allow the Group and one of its technology partners to develop an ‘augmented reality’ device. This is designed to help staff undertake maintenance work on existing nuclear power stations, construct new-build stations or help decommission old ones.

“The idea is that you go on to a site with a handheld computer or tablet, hold it up, stream what you can see through the device’s camera and it is overlaid with computer information,” explained Matt Blackwell, Costain’s Group BIM Manager.

“For example, you would hold it up to a valve and it would tell you when the valve was last maintained, who maintained it and when it next required maintenance. It would also give you a method statement on how to change the valve.

“The idea came from work we’re doing on the London Bridge Station contract. There, we use augmented reality to demonstrate what aspects such as temporary works and hoardings will look like.”

“We’re very focused on supplying innovative solutions to our customers,” commented Group Innovation Manager, Tim Embley.

“Due to the growth of the nuclear sector, we’ve been looking at a range of services we can supply. Augmented Reality allows frontline maintenance teams to have access to information right at the point where they need it.”

Costain and its innovation partner believe the new system will also be useful at the decommissioning ends of the nuclear spectrum, said Nuclear Development Director, Alistair Smith.

In decommissioning a nuclear plant, for example, the overlay could show which areas of a building or individual room had higher areas of radioactivity, so personnel could avoid them.

“You could wear a head-mounted display to ‘see’ radioactivity. By augmenting the view you would know where you wouldn’t want to stand for very long, or how you would need to dismantle a particular valve while minimising your radioactive dose.”