In May 2016, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff provided a digital instrumentation and control (I&C) regulatory infrastructure integrated action plan to the NRC for approval. One of the objectives of that plan was to establish a clear regulatory structure with reduced regulatory uncertainty to enable the expanded safe use of digital I&C in commercial nuclear reactors while continuing to ensure safety and security. To achieve this end, the NRC, with collaboration from industry, developed a streamlined License Amendment Request Alternate Review (AR) process for safety-related (SR) digital I&C upgrades. In spite of this effort, the industry has remained reluctant to perform such I&C upgrades because of perceived regulatory and financial risks associated with being the first or an early adopter of the AR process for SR I&C upgrades.

The U.S. Department of Energy Light Water Reactor Sustainability Program at the Idaho National Laboratory performed Initial Scoping Phase research to help break this impasse by supporting a SR I&C Pilot Upgrade, working with MPR Associates, ScottMadden Inc., and Exelon Generation. Exelon’s Limerick Generating Station (LGS) was selected as the target for this research. This paper summarizes the Initial Scoping Phase engineering and operations, licensing, and project management activities necessary to bound the scope, schedule, and estimated cost of the project sufficiently to enable utility management authorization of Conceptual Design Phase activities. These efforts and associated products are intended to provide a template to support larger industry efforts to perform similar upgrades as a foundation stone for a digital transformation that will improve plant safety, reliability, and operational performance while lowering plant total cost of ownership. As a result of the combined effort of Exelon Generation and research participants, Conceptual Design Phase activities for the subject upgrade at LGS were approved by Exelon. The U.S. Department of Energy also awarded a $50 million cost share award to Exelon in order to pave the way for SR I&C modernization and associated control room upgrades across the U.S. nuclear fleet. Additional research reports are planned for the Conceptual Design Phase, Detailed Design Phase, and the Implementation Phase of the LGS project to document the process followed and promulgate lessons learned to industry.