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Design Considerations for Secure Wireless Sensor Communication Systems in Harsh Electromagnetic Environments of Nuclear Reactor Facilities

Faranak Nekoogar, Farid Dowla

Nuclear Technology / Volume 202 / Number 2-3 / May-June 2018 / Pages 191-200

Technical Paper / dx.doi.org/10.1080/00295450.2018.1452418

Received:October 13, 2017
Accepted:March 9, 2018
Published:June 8, 2018

Wireless sensors can potentially play a significant role in safety, efficiency, and reliability of the instrumentation and control process in current and next generation nuclear power reactors. While conventional narrowband wireless sensors have shown a certain level of success in some nuclear power plants (NPPs), the radio frequency (RF) propagation challenges posed by the heavy metallic and cluttered environment of NPPs has prevented their widespread use in such operations. These challenges include RF wave propagation in harsh (reflective, absorptive, cluttered) environments, data security issues, and RF interference to and from other devices in the vicinity of a nuclear reactor core. In this paper, first we address how ultrawideband (UWB) RF technology can complement the narrowband (i.e., WiFi) solutions that have been used in some NPPs by providing an alternative solution in addressing the signal propagation issues in such electromagnetically harsh environments. Second, we discuss and present the UWB software simulation results on multipath harsh environments, and then address the data security issues. In the final sections of the paper, we present the experimental results of using UWB signaling in a representative harsh environment conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology research reactor site. We plan to develop the UWB communications hardware based on the results of this paper and report on its performance in the field with emphasis on the security aspects of the system in a subsequent paper.

 
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