Rethinking operations through digital control room design

December 16, 2022, 3:47PMNuclear NewsRyan Flamand
The NuScale control room simulator has been used to showcase the plant’s design, prototype new displays, and test the operator and supervisor procedures in a fully digital control room. (Photos: NuScale Power)

Since the inception of commercial nuclear power in the United States, every control room in every nuclear plant has looked essentially the same. You will see fixed alarm tiles, red and green lights, rows of switches, and analog meters. Until about a decade ago, you would even have seen paper charts (now replaced by digital versions of those same charts). Licensed operators have shown through a proven operating history that this control room design is safe and effective. Genius definitely went into the complexity of circuits and placement of switches and indications in the design, but things have come a long way over the years, and new technology, updated plant designs, and the need to improve efficiency and maintain reliability have impacted staffing and the role of operators. A control room update is long overdue. So, what lies ahead for the future of nuclear control room design? What possibilities exist for the next generation of plants?

The role of digital insight in a safer nuclear industry

February 2, 2021, 9:45AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The impact of COVID-19 has placed a sharp focus on not only the importance of keeping key personnel safe but also how to better manage risk with fewer resources on site, writes Ola Bäckström, a product manager for risk at Lloyd’s Register, for Power magazine.

One unexpected result is the acceleration of interest in digitization initiatives. Ten years of digital innovation since the Fukushima accident in March 2011 have brought new ways of modeling and managing risk, and new solutions have been brought to market that are allowing for the safe operation of nuclear power plants.

The digitalization of plant designs is one area of risk assessment that can now be completed automatically. The latest technologies consider more than just schematics and equations, much to the benefit of this new era of nuclear. For instance, digital data combined with international best practices, site-specific data, and an engineer’s own experience can provide a deeper level of insight and analysis than ever before—and faster. Bäckström adds that not just new projects but aging assets can also benefit from digitalization. As more data are input, risk managers can run more accurate simulations and better model existing plants.