Keynote 6 (August 28, 2015)
Prof. Jin Jiang
Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering
University of Western Ontario, CANADA.

Research and Development for next Generation Nuclear I&C Systems - Requirements, Challenges, and Opportunities

This talk starts with a brief historical overview of development in Instrumentation and Control (I&C) systems for nuclear power plants. Even though basic control functionalities of nuclear power plants remain more or less unchanged over the past 50 years, as technologies advance at each stage of their maturity, new proven technologies have been incorporated into the I&C systems. For example, nuclear I&C technologies evolve from pneumatic to analog electronics, analogy to digital electronics, digital electronics to computers, computers to FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array). The plant information is used to be carried from the field devices to the main control room by electric currents flowing through copper wires at a level between 4 and 20 mA. Now, the same information may be transferred in a sequence of 1's and 0's on a shared digital optical fiber cable multiplexed with many other plant wide signals. Looking into not too distant future, wireless technologies will also become an option for I&C signal transmissions within nuclear power plants. The flexibility that wireless technologies can offer is extremely useful for temporary installations for economy justifications or under severe accident conditions, under which the normal systems are no longer available.

Should we embrace latest technologies, or should we stick with old fashioned ways for implementing I&C systems in a nuclear power plant? The answer to this question may not depend solely on technology, but also with the philosophy of I&C system design engineers, and most importantly with the regulations (for safety related I&C systems) of a particular jurisdiction where the nuclear power plant locates.

Even though the design life of nuclear power plant is normally up to 50 years, the normal life span of a nuclear power plant could be extended up to 80 or even 100 years (with refurbishments of major components). This is very similar to the life span of a healthy adult in the developed world. It is not too difficult to contemplate the technology evolution and advancement using an automobile as an example. Comparing a typical car from Henry Ford era with a modern day Ford Mustang, all have gasoline engines, and four wheels, but the instrumentation and control onboard those cars share no resemblance. This represents an interesting analogy, however, with a twister. The life span of a nuclear power plant is very different from that of a car. A typical life span of a nuclear power plant can cover multiple life spans of its instrumentation and control systems. Eventually, obsolescence and (un)availability of spare parts can play a major role in I&C modernization.

The second part of the talk will then focuses on the requirements of I&C systems for nuclear power plants and discussions on some unique challenges facing nuclear I&C systems community. From research and development point of view, challenges will translate into opportunities for innovation. Several new technological options will be examined for both normal plant operations and under severe accident conditions. The focus will be on 'smart devices' for improving operational safety and performance, and rad-harden monitoring systems with wireless capabilities for responding to nuclear emergencies. New technologies will not come without their own issues, such as common mode failures in computer based systems, or cyber security with plant wide networks. Some of these issues will be discussed also.

To develop an innovative environment for research and development, it is important to create a training and educational framework at our universities and research institutions. The third part of the talk will focus on research activities at the University of Western Ontario in Canada in the area of I&C for nuclear power plants. In particular, a newly developed physical component based nuclear power I&C test facilities will be discussed in detail. This system offers a unique environment for supporting research and development of advanced control schemes and techniques under various plant operating environments.

The potential roles that wireless systems can play in the event of severe, beyond design basis, accidents will also be examined. Some research activities under recent IAEA sponsored Coordinated Research Project (CRP) on the "Application of Wireless Technologies in Nuclear Power Plant Instrumentation and Control Systems" will be explained.