Equipment used within the nuclear power plant industry often has existing coatings that contain lead or asbestos. Such coatings can make maintaining and de-painting equipment dangerous and costly using traditional paint stripping methods. Workers must wear multiple types of PPE and the work area must be enclosed and sealed off to contain hazardous dust and debris — which are time-consuming to clean up and costly to dispose of. Unlike other stripping options, laser ablation removes coatings containing hazardous materials with minimal PPE and without the need for containment. The process captures the coating material as it’s removed so there are virtually no clean-up and no mixed waste. If your fleet has plants with lead and asbestos — which contain costs to remove — our laser solutions can save you time and money.
OUR INITIAL EVALUATION
In December of 2013, a major nuclear plant operator partner rented a 1000-watt laser system for on-site testing to determine its effectiveness and suitability for lead-containing paint abatement within the Protected Area of the plant.
The unit was set up in a maintenance facility outside of the plant where it could be evaluated by engineering, safety, and operations for the in-plant applications. This evaluation involved a variety of specific tests, including:
- Checking the unit for EMF/EMI concerns that might affect sensitive controls
- Using the laser to de-paint large welds
- Effectiveness and production rate of the laser process in general
The goal was to use laser ablation as a more effective and quicker alternative to the very slow, de-painting process of using chemical stripers and/or other cumbersome mechanical means. Based on the initial testing and evaluation, plant management approved the laser system for use in the Protected Area of the plant.
LASER ABLATION PROCESS IMPROVEMENTS
In the Spring of 2014, the plant rented a 1,000-watt laser again, this time for plant safety personnel to conduct air monitoring and operator exposure to HAZMATS when using laser ablation to remove coatings containing lead and asbestos. The test results showed the laser process — with point-source fume extraction — was effective in capturing the removing coating material without creating hazardous airborne.
Air monitoring results confirmed that laser ablation was able to remove lead and asbestos-containing coatings without exposing personnel or the general workplace to the hazardous coatings. It did so while reducing the PPE and containment normally required when traditional methods are used — such as abrasive blasting, grinding, and sanding.
After the favorable testing results and process evaluations — in the fall of 2014 — the plant rented a 1000-watt and a 500-watt laser for three weeks during outage in the work scope for a major generator replacement project. These lasers were deployed to quickly remove lead-containing coatings in areas where plasma torch‐cutting of large weld seams was required. The lasers were also used for other applications, including the removal of old asbestos gaskets from easily damaged, machined aluminum pipe flanges.
The laser solution was deemed very successful. Laser de-painting was on the critical piece of the project schedule and it helped the team complete the related demolition work ahead of schedule. Our laser systems proved many times faster and more effective than what would otherwise be possible using traditional paint stripping options. By using only focused light, laser de-painting eliminated hazardous secondary waste while providing a residue-free, post-treatment surface ideal for re‐welding.