How one nuclear power facility has implemented VR

It seems like I haven’t been able to get away from virtual reality (VR) lately. On the cover of this month’s issue, Jim Montague takes a deep dive into various types of realities and their benefits for process automation and control. (We published this online as a mini-series, check it out here).

Then, I recently produced a new Manufacturing Tomorrow’s Workforce podcast about the benefits of training with virtual reality, “Industry training with virtual reality.”

From all of Montague’s reporting on the topic, and after listening to the podcast several times over, it’s clear to me that training is among the strongest selling points for this technology in process automation. But if I wasn’t convinced before, a recent article on ZDNet.com has now solidified it in my mind.

The article, titled “Meltdown averted: How VR headsets are making nuclear power plants safer,” by Greg Nichols, explains how VR has become a cost-effective training solution for these facilities, which have gained more of the public’s attention after HBO’s recent Chernobyl series. Most notably, it highlights how Fortum, a power company in the Nordics, has implemented the technology to its benefit.

According to Nichols, Nordics built a VR training room for its operators at a plant in Finland. He reports that the training room cost one-tenth that of a traditional, physical training facility.

“In safety-critical environments and process industries, human errors can lead to serious accidents and production losses,” said Joakim Bergroth, a human factor engineering expert involved in the VR implementation at the Finland facility, in the ZDNet article. “The physical simulators are usually fully booked, which doesn’t leave much time for additional testing or evaluations.”

The company has also used VR to improve validation of critical design components. In fact, it allows for evaluations and pre-validations months ahead of implementation time, Bergroth said in the article.

I know I’m a little bit optimistic, but it’s exciting to learn that the technology I see my nephews using to play video games at home can have a more meaningful purpose, providing a true value to society. I only hope that these technologies will continue to be implemented, cyber-safely, of course.