Varjo VR-1 can help minimize human errors in the most safety-critical environment. The cost of VR is 1/10th of "physical costs"

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With the help of virtual reality, design validations as well as operator training at nuclear power plants can now be done more effectively. The Loviisa plant in Finland is the first nuclear power plant in the world building a dedicated VR training room for control room operators. And the Varjo VR-1 is the only virtual reality device that is up to the challenge.

When it comes to industrial environments, the nuclear industry leads the way in improving safety. Enormous amounts of money are spent yearly on the design and validation of the human-machine interfaces, as well as procedure optimization. Nuclear power plant operators worldwide act according to strict manuals. Nothing is left to chance. The goal is to maximize safety and efficiency, and human-machine interfaces play an important role in it.

Joakim Bergroth is a human factor engineering expert with over 10 years of experience in the nuclear field. His responsibility as the product lead at Fortum eSite is to develop and take new technologies, such as virtual and augmented reality (VR & AR), into daily use at nuclear power plants and other safety-critical environments. Fortum is one of the largest power generation companies in the Nordics, and Fortum eSite is their internal venture which provides leading industrial-grade VR solutions to safety-critical environments and the process industry in general.

Bergroth is also involved in the implementation of the world’s first fully dynamic and interactive virtual reality control room in Loviisa, where the operators are now getting ready to take VR into training and daily use on site.

“Fortum eSite’s virtual validation solution is globally unique – nobody else has done integrated system validation for nuclear power plant control rooms up till now.”

Already now, 90% of Loviisa personnel have done training in VR environments.

“In safety-critical environments and process industries, human errors can lead to serious accidents and production losses. Millions of euros are used to build physical simulators where operators can practice different scenarios from small disturbances, such as pipe leakages, to severe accident trainings. The physical simulators are usually fully booked, which doesn’t leave much time for additional testing or evaluations,” Bergroth says.

Training in a traditional physical simulator is expensive, but building a physical simulator is even more expensive. A physical simulator means building an exact, functional replica of the real environment, such as the control room of a power plant. Recreating a virtual replica costs only a fraction compared to that, bringing about huge cost savings and the ability to implement changes quickly.

“The cost of a VR simulator is 1/10th of the cost of building a physical simulator. And with the Varjo VR-1, the visual fidelity of our virtual simulator is finally on a level that it should be.”

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