FOSAR Operations

Foreign Object Search and Retrieval (FOSAR) is critical to the power-generation industry for retrieving objects in hard-to-reach areas that interfere with critical, daily operations. Seasoned pro, Edward J. Hyp, recounts how ingenuity and the right tools translate to invaluable savings.

Imagine yourself in a yellow cloth anti-contamination suit, double gloves, hood, plastic shoe covers, and boots with every seam bound with duct tape. You are about to go into an area with 100° Fahrenheit temperatures and 100% humidity adjacent to a towering 8-story tall nuclear steam generator.

It is 3:00 AM, and the nuclear facility third shift maintenance manager is, to put it lightly, stressed. Their Metal Impact Monitoring System (MIMS) detected metal sounds and vibration inside a Steam Generator and the Nuclear Regulatory Comission (NRC) made the Utility shutdown to investigate. “We need you yesterday, bring everything,” the manager had said on the phone call.

Edward J. Hyp, a retired Foreign Object Search and Retrieval (FOSAR) specialist and former owner of Vistas Corporation, has been in this scenario more times than he would care to admit. In this case, a grinding metal burr with a 5” stem welded to it was loosely stuck between the square pitch tubes of the steam generator tube sheet. This is very worrisome because this could wear through the 0.50” tube wall and cause a primary to secondary contamination leak. In some estimations, these types of shutdowns can cost a power company anywhere between 1 to 2 million dollars per day. Ed and his team were the people who got the call to get burr out of there and get it out fast.

Shutdowns can cost a power company anwhere between 1 to 2 million USD per day.

“FOSAR is a high-stress and high-stakes job. It takes a lot of technique and ingenuity combined with the right tooling to get the job done. Most of the time you’re given little information and don’t know what the scenario is until you get on-site, so you come prepared,” said Ed recalling many moments of his 37-year career as a FOSAR company owner and specialist. “Inventiveness and thinking outside the box are key [in FOSAR].”

FOSAR is a service for generating facilities that keeps power generators and Balance of Plant (BOP) systems operating as intended. FOSAR can be routine during seasonal maintenance shutdowns to find and remove any unwanted foreign materials. It can also be a high-stakes, emergency operation much like the grinding burr scenario. Regardless of the situation, the goal of FOSAR is to quickly and safely remove any object or materials from a steam generator that could risk internal component failure. To achieve this goal, you need a team, experience, and the right tools.

Foreign Object Search & Retrieval OperationsiGrab Retrieval Tools Logo

“When you’re dealing with nuclear containment areas you want something that isn’t flashy, but something that works,” Ed added. Over the years creating his FOSAR tool kit, Vistas relied on many of InterTest, Inc.’s manual retrieval tools (hand-controlled tools in a variety of jaw sets and diameters of 1.4 to 10 mm),  motorized retrieval tools (motorized tools with greater grip strength and diameters of .75” and 1.00”), and articulating guide tubes (flexible tubes with working channels to provide articulation for manual retrieval tools).

In the past InterTest, Inc. even collaborated with Ed to make the Annulus Monitoring Optical System (AMOS) Tool, a 270° horizontally articulating remote visual inspection camera head with powerful magnets and other tools which provided many inspection views for his FOSAR operations.


AMOS Tool Magnetic Strength Demonstration-InterTest


Pictured: The AMOS system and its powerful magnet holding capability.

To perform FOSAR operations takes the right tools for the job, ingenuity, technique, and patience. The bottom video shows Ed at work removing a metal pin wedged in an internal area of a nuclear steam generator. To knock it loose would cause the pin to fall farther down into the generator, so a wire needed to be threaded through an eyehole to secure the pin before knocking it loose and retrieving. This was achieved at a distance of 25 feet away using long-cabled visual inspection tools and Intertest Inc.’s 4mm manual snare retrieval tool and an articulating guide tube. 

“The job definitely requires a high degree of patience,” Ed recalled. “In one SG annulus, we found a mound of solidified, ferrous material that formed from debris over the years. It was the consistency of lava rock with old wires and machine curls. It had to be chiseled away and vacuumed out. We made a custom, lengthy chisel tool, and slowly chipped away at the mound until it was all loose and vacuumed. All your work must be documented and verified by facility inspectors before moving on. Clearing this pile took 12 hours.”

Whether an emergency or not, FOSAR operations are a necessary and regular part of the nuclear steam generator world. FOSAR teams are now more vertically integrated into bigger corporations who own these power facilities and power facility services, but these outfits still require the right tools, ingenuity, and patience to perform their necessary operations.

FOSAR is a dirty and tedious job, but someone must do it, and it is critical to empower your FOSAR team with the right tools for the job. Check out InterTest Inc.’s readily available all-inclusive iGrab™ Complete Professional FOD Retrieval Tool Kit and prepare your FOSAR team today.