As part of the “Plan France Relance” to relaunch the French economy, the government is supporting investments in the French nuclear industry and its modernisation to strengthen competitiveness. A call for projects, managed by BPI France, was launched to support companies in the sector with a budget of approximately €120 million. For the 2nd round of this investment support fund, the VERAO 4.0 project led by SITES was selected by the French government.
SITES, an independent French player for infrastructure durability, is therefore one of the 3 winning medium-sized enterprises (supported with €1.1 million for €2.7 million in productive investments) of this second round. State funding of part of the VERAO 4.0 project will enable SITES to continue its innovative momentum alongside industrial players in the French nuclear sector and at the service of Civil Engineering entities, particularly in the low-carbon energy sector (nuclear, hydro and wind).
“Contributing to the production of low-carbon energy, the nuclear sector also plays an important role in our industrial fabric and our energy independence. Representing nearly 3,000 companies and 220,000 direct and indirect jobs, the sector faces challenges of mobilising investment in its modernisation and research and development to be able to engage with and address its challenges in the short and medium term.”
The VERAO (computer-aided measurement and inspection) solution developed by SITES has been used for several years to monitor the ageing of infrastructures as part of the Civil Engineering Basic Maintenance Programmes of the French Nuclear installed base. The next developments consist of creating the new generation of this Nuclear Civil Engineering inspection tool.
Focus on the VERAO 4.0 project
Present on many French nuclear power plants for several decades, the SITES Group has accumulated significant know-how in civil-engineering inspections for Basic Nuclear Installations (BNIs). On the basis of this long field experience, the SITES R&D teams developed a software suite in 2010 consisting of specific digital tools called VERAO (French acronym for computer-aided measurement and inspection).
This 1st digitisation phase has made it possible to optimise inspection missions with, in particular, significant gains in data completeness and validation. The objective of the VERAO 4.0 project is to upgrade these digital tools to create the new generation of the VERAO inspection system for nuclear civil engineering and thus meet the requirements of all BNIs with a structured civil-engineering maintenance approach.
The tool runs on tablets and will support the SITES teams in carrying out all inspections (Civil Engineering and Fire) required for nuclear safety. To further optimise these inspection rounds (improvements to productivity and overall dosimetry), VERAO 4.0 will be equipped with innovative algorithms based on Artificial Intelligence (Machine Learning, Deep Learning).
In particular, AI will help inspectors and technical controllers to automatically identify and characterise anomalies, to check the consistency of readings or to optimise the organisation of inspections (predictive/adaptive maintenance). Finally, all data collected in situ will be interfaced with the operator’s Data Systems to allow rapid and secure reporting of any anomaly detected, and therefore to foster even more efficient processing.
The SITES Group
SITES is an independent French company specialising in the monitoring of civil-engineering infrastructures. More than 450 engineers and technicians work every day to ensure the safety and durable operation of infrastructures such as nuclear power plants, dams, viaducts, bridges, tunnels and major or emblematic assets. SITES thus offers turnkey services (studies, methods, tools and solutions) to all infrastructure stakeholders, making it possible to assess and monitor the structural health of an asset over time to ensure its durability.