Advanced Instrumentation, Information, and Control Systems Technologies
Reliable instrumentation, information, and control systems technologies are essential to ensuring safe and efficient operation of the U.S. light water reactor fleet. These technologies affect every aspect of nuclear power plant and balance-of-plant operations. Digital instrumentation, information, and control systems technologies are deployed in a number of power generation settings worldwide. Current instrumentation and human-machine interfaces employ analog systems in the nuclear power sector. The nuclear power plant owners and operators realize that this analog technology represents a significant challenge to sustaining safe and economic operation of the current fleet of nuclear power plants. Beyond control systems, new technologies are needed to monitor and characterize the effects of aging and degradation in critical areas of key systems, structures, and components. The objective of these efforts is to develop, demonstrate, and deploy new digital technologies for instrumentation, information, and control architectures and provide monitoring capabilities to ensure the continued safe, reliable, and economic operation of the nation‘s 104 nuclear power plants.
Today, digital technologies are implemented as point solutions to performance concerns with individual instrumentation, information, and control components. This reactive approach is characterized by planning horizons that are short and typically only allow for like-for-like‘ replacements. This results in a fragmented, non-optimized approach that is driven by immediate needs.
An effective research and development initiative must engage the stakeholders (i.e., plant owners, regulators, vendors, and research and development organizations) to initiate relevant research and development activities. This calls for development and execution of a long-term strategy for nuclear power plant instrumentation, information, and control technology modernization based on the unique characteristics of the U.S. nuclear industry and its regulatory environment. In the near term, this strategy should lead to the ability to transition to a business model for nuclear power plant operation, employing a new technology base that becomes less labor intensive, facilitates greater digital application deployments, and can be deployed seamlessly across the operational enterprise. The execution of this research and development approach will lay the foundation for a technology base that is more stable and sustainable over the long term and assures the continued safety of power generation from nuclear energy systems.
The purpose of the research pathway is to enable the modernization of the legacy instrumentation, information, and control systems in a manner that creates a seamless digital environment encompassing all aspects of plant operations and support – building a three-dimensional information architecture that integrates plant systems, plant processes, and plant workers in an array of interconnected technologies.
The development and collaborations through this pathway are intended to overcome the inertia that sustains the current status quo of today‘s instrumentation, information, and control systems technology and to motivate transformational change and a shift in strategy – informed by business objectives – to a long-term approach to instrumentation, information, and control modernization that is more sustainable.
Research and development activities are being proposed to develop needed capabilities through digital technologies to support long-term nuclear power plant operations and management. The supporting technologies will enable the large integrated changes that industry cannot achieve without direct research and development support. This includes comprehensive programs that achieve the following:
- Support creation of new technologies that can be deployed to address the sustainability of today‘s instrumentation, information, and control systems technologies
- Improve understanding of, confidence in, and facilitate transition to these new technologies
- Support development of the technical basis needed to achieve technology deployments
- Create or renew infrastructure needed for research, education, and testing.
The research and development activities result in key outcomes from each of the pilot projects, which include:
- Highly-Integrated Control Room
- Highly Automated Plant
- Human Performance Improvement for Nuclear Power Plant Field Workers
- Integrated Operations
- Outage Safety and Efficiency
- Centralized Online Monitoring and Information Integration