Among the challenges confronting the nuclear power industry following the Fukushima Daiichi crisis, plant owners began looking for ways to monitor spent fuel pools in the extreme conditions possible during a beyond-design-basis accident. In response, Areva has begun to market a system that can measure SFP water levels despite steam, dense smoke and adverse water conditions.

The French company recently demonstrated its Vegapuls 62 sensor for professionals representing two-thirds of the power reactors in the U.S., according to an Areva announcement Friday. The field tests simulated a variety of adverse conditions. The sensors, which can be positioned as far as 212 feet away, work by directing microwaves into the SFP that are able to penetrate smoke and return data indicative of the pool's water level.

In response to Fukushima, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission last year required all power reactor license holders to have "reliable means of remotely monitoring wide-range spent fuel pool levels to support effective prioritization of event mitigation and recovery actions in the event of a beyond-design-basis external event." The order requires that plants install the sensor improvements by 2016 and that the new equipment be more robust under emergency conditions.