Nuclear Technology / Volume 177 / Number 1 / January 2012 / Pages 132-145
Technical Paper / Nuclear Plant Operations and Control
Nuclear power plants are complex engineering systems comprised of many interacting and interdependent mechanical components whose failure might lead to degraded plant performance or unplanned shutdown with loss of power generation and negative economic impact. As a result, continuous component surveillance and accurate prediction of their failing points is necessary for their on-time replacement. In this paper, a probabilistic kernel approach for intelligent online monitoring of mechanical components is presented. Specifically, the probabilistic kernel notion of Gaussian processes (GPs) is applied to the distribution prediction of a component's degradation trend. The proposed method exploits the learning ability of a GP and updates its prediction using a feedback mechanism. The methodology is tested on actual turbine blade degradation data for a variety of topologies (i.e., kernels). The GP estimations are compared to those obtained with a nonprobabilistic, kernel-based machine learning algorithm, the support vector regression (SVR). The comparison outcome clearly demonstrates that GP prediction accuracy outperforms SVR in the majority of the cases while providing a predictive distribution instead of point estimates as SVR does.