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Some problems that will handicap the development of Small Nuclear Reactors

The I&C challenges for small modular reactors, Nuclear Engineering International 4 November 2020  Dr Li Li examines the instrumentation and control requirements and challenges for a new generation of small modular reactors.

REACTOR DEVELOPERS ARE DEVELOPING A wide variety of small modular reactor (SMRs)….. Many use Generation III+ pressurised water reactor (PWR) technology similar to that used in current gigawatt-scale reactors, while others are based on advanced Generation IV technologies ranging from high temperature gas-cooled reactors to molten-salt reactors.

Each design will have its own requirements for instrumentation and control (I&C) systems for the operation, monitoring and control of the reactor, turbine island and balance of plant. Even among PWRs, the design principles and I&C architectures are very different and cannot be easily replicated from one design to another.

To understand the challenges, let’s look at three competing designs: the UK SMR being developed by a consortium of companies including Rolls-Royce, Jacobs, Assystem and Atkins with support from research institutions including Nuclear AMRC; the NuScale Power Module backed by Fluor Corporation with funding from the US Department of Energy; and the Westinghouse SMR, which adapts technologies from the established AP1000 design………..

The issue of cyber security will be critical for the certification of digital I&C systems. According to the Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team, part of the US Department of Homeland Security, cyber-attacks and security infringement targeting control systems have increased significantly in recent years. With more digital smart devices used in nuclear power plant of any size, it must be a priority to protect the vulnerability of smart devices and digital I&C system from cyber attack and malicious sniffing from hostile individuals or organisations…….

 in most cases, new codes and standards will need to be developed for advanced reactors.

The development of new codes and standards is a very lengthy process. It will take resources and time to publish a new standard for the nuclear industry, and we might not see one ready before new SMR developers file their design certification application……….

Many SMR designs, including the three considered above, have the potential to be used for co-generation of process heat, district heating or desalination. This will introduce additional complexity for regulators to approve the power plant I&C design, if the co-generation processes are located at same site for economic reasons. This brings new challenges because extra safety measures must be considered. For example, additional safety features of the control system and evacuation plan must be approved by an adequate jurisdictional authority for the orderly shutdown of both the nuclear plant and industrial processes in the event of an accident.


Author information: Dr Li Li, Head of the digital I&C group at the UK’s Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Nuclear AMRC)   https://www.neimagazine.com/features/featurethe-ic-challenges-for-small-modular-reactors-8345341/

November 5, 2020 - Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA

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