Human Factors for Advanced Reactors

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Ronald Boring

Abstract: Existing light water reactors in the U.S. are primarily large baseload electricity generating facilities. The concept of operations for these plants remains largely unchanged since the advent of commercial nuclear power—the main control room serves as the hub of plant activities and is staffed with multiple licensed operators who work in tandem under the shift supervisor, and staff such as field workers support the control room remotely. While newer plants have brought the advent of digital human-machine interfaces to replace earlier analog and mechanical instrumentation and controls, much of the control process remains unchanged and manual. It is simply a newer version of legacy concepts. Advanced reactors potentially bring considerable changes to the size, fuel type, automation, and staffing of nuclear power plants, necessitating a fundamental shift not just from analog to digital, but further from human to automation, from onsite to remote, from control to monitoring, and from many to few operators. Despite this multitude of parallel evolutions in reactor designs, many of the vendors developing the next generation of reactors represent smaller research and development enterprises. It is therefore not feasible to address all aspects of plant design at the same time. In particular, the competing design aspects of new reactors present a significant challenge to the development of robust and human factored systems at the plant. As vendors develop new reactor designs, much of the early focus is naturally on the fuel and reactor system technology. Looming behind these early advances is the daunting prospect of first-of-a-kind control concepts that have not yet been developed or validated. A failure to address the human element of reactor design early will lead to missed opportunities. The quickest development process is the replication of existing concepts of operations at legacy plants, even when such systems were long ago surpassed by better human-machine technologies outside the nuclear industry. Conversely, attempting to undertake novel concepts of operations late in the design life cycle of a plant could result in protracted development efforts and delays in licensing and deployment. This does not have to happen, and it is imperative that human factors be considered now, early in the design of new reactors.

Keywords: human factors, advanced reactors

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1003781

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