Technical Innovations to the Rescue of Aging I&C Rooms
Dr. Otto P. Fest
Digitization of main control rooms is no longer an option for the rich and affluent nuclear power plants. The world Nuclear Power Plant fleet consists of about 350 NPP’s 35 years or older, with about 93 of them in the USA. The problems are not only their aging but also the continuous anti-nuclear movement, the unfair favoritism toward other sources of electrical energy, and the over-regulation of the nuclear industry, as well as alternate sources of energy that the nuclear industry has been able to overcome in some regulated markets. It makes you wonder how much longer will the industry last. All of the aforementioned is nothing compared to the latest discovery that “nothing is forever”. That all has a beginning and has an end! Analog metering is obsolete as a result of simply not being good enough. Analog meters still present only add to the aging I&C room issues. The small replacement market doesn’t justify their expensive manufacture by the big guys, and because other technologies have flourished that is far superior in reliability, accuracy, life expectancy, maintenance, operating cost, and most importantly, greater safety and efficiency.
Safety & Efficiency: If digitization was to increase the safety & efficiency of your NPP by 1% and your daily output is $1 million, the $10,000.00 additional profit would be enough to pay for the upgrade within months if you select the right replacements.
What to do?
In my humble opinion, and being an avid admirer of Sir Charles Darwin and his closing statement: “Evolve or Perish” and being a scientist by profession and thanks to many experts in the field that mentored me and contributed greatly to my following statements, I would: Switch to the most modern & proven Automatic Process Control with Triple Redundancy Control (as we did during my years at the NASA-Apollo Lunar adventure just 50 years old last July 20th). But, is it wise to do a heart transplant to an old man like me?
What other options do our aging I&C rooms in Nuclear Power Plants have?
What would I do if I was the owner, COO, CEO, CFO, (Bean Counter), I&C Manager, or stockholder at an NPP?
I was asked once, “How Do You Invent Anything Anyway?” My reply (without hesitation) was: Observe Analyze and Document. The inventor’s credo!
a) What are the results of the Oconee NPP experiment in the digitalization of their NPP? Will they ever get ROI?
b) Who else has digitized a 30+-year-old NPP at such a great expense and has derived any ROI? Or what are the probabilities one ever will?
c) Talk to Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and their editorial on digitization in Nuclear News (NN June 2017) and seek advice. There are plenty of eager Systems Integrators ready to help you.
d) Research other alternative technologies that would get you to the final destination with comparable results. i.e. Pace Maker instead of transplant?
a) Are there any other technologies that would get you to your destination (survival) without so great a risk of death (bankruptcy)? Such as new proven Class 1E technologies that would assure the survival and profitability of your NPP until the inevitable end?
b) Is Do Nothing (vegetate) an option? Will your NPP survive until final decommissioning?
Do the research and implement your prototype to prove your theorem and get to work. Remember: “Inventing is an instant of inspiration and an entire life of perspiration”