Current instrumentation and human-machine interfaces in the nuclear power sector employ analog technologies. In other power generation sectors, analog technologies have largely been replaced with digital technologies. Although considered obsolete by other industries, analog instrumentation and control continues to function reliably, though spare and replacement parts are becoming increasingly scarce as is the workforce that is familiar with and able to maintain it. In 1997, the National Research Council conducted a study concerning the challenges involved in modernizing existing analog-based instrumentation and controls with digital instrumentation and control systems in nuclear power plants. Their findings identified the need for new II&C technology integration.
Research and Development Purpose and Goals
The Advanced II&C Systems Technologies Pathway conducts targeted research and development to address aging and reliability concerns with the legacy instrumentation and control and related information systems of the U.S. operating LWR fleet. This work involves two major goals: (1) to ensure that legacy analog II&C systems are not life-limiting issues for the LWR fleet, and (2) to implement digital II&C technology in a manner that enables broad innovation and business improvement in the nuclear power plant operating model. Resolving long-term operational concerns with the II&C systems contributes to the long-term sustainability of the LWR fleet, which is vital to the nation’s energy and environmental security. The Advanced II&C Systems Technologies Pathway research and development efforts address critical gaps in technology development and deployment to reduce risk and cost. The objective of these efforts is to develop, demonstrate, and support deployment of new digital II&C technologies for nuclear process control, enhance worker performance, and provide enhanced monitoring capabilities to ensure the continued safe, reliable, and economic operation of the nation’s nuclear power plants.
New value from II&C technologies is possible if they are integrated with work processes, directly support plant staff, and are used to create new efficiencies and ways of achieving safety enhancements. A goal of these efforts is to motivate development of a seamless digital environment for plant operations and support by integrating information from plant systems with plant processes for plant workers through an array of interconnected technologies:
Plant systems – beyond centralized monitoring and awareness of plant conditions, deliver plant information to digitally based systems that support plant work and directly to workers performing these work activities.
Plant processes – integrate plant information into digital field-work devices, automate many manually performed surveillance tasks, and manage risk through real-time centralized oversight and awareness of field work.
Plant workers – provide plant workers with immediate, accurate plant information that allows them to conduct work at plant locations using assistive devices that minimize radiation exposure, enhance procedural compliance and accurate work execution, and enable collaborative oversight and support even in remote locations.
The development and collaborations through this pathway are intended to overcome the inertia that sustains the current status quo of today’s II&C systems technology and to motivate transformational change and a shift in strategy – informed by business objectives – to a long-term approach to II&C modernization that is more sustainable.
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