Friday, January 23, 2009

Nuclear Plants Are Going Wireless

Here's something enticing for us nuclear geeks. In InTech's January edition, two software engineers, a software developer and two nuclear plant engineers wrote about the coming age of wireless technology at nuclear plants.

Wireless presence in nuclear power plants is inevitable. The government and industry sectors are preparing...
The Department of Energy is funding the research and development (R&D) project:
The project is in two phases to progress over a period of three years. The Phase I effort is completed, and the Phase II project is pending. In Phase I, the feasibility of wireless sensors for equipment condition monitoring in nuclear power plants was the object of investigation. In Phase II, this R&D effort will continue for another two years to address the technical issues that must be resolved to establish the foundation for widespread use of wireless technologies in nuclear power plants.

The R&D will focus not only on equipment condition monitoring, but also, and as importantly, for a variety of other applications such as equipment aging and obsolescence management, manpower savings, reduction of radiation dose to maintenance personnel, asset management, and process measurements.

Work in wireless application areas for nuclear power plants is also proceeding at international research organizations, laboratories, and universities. In this phase, we only looked at U.S. organizations.

The next step is Phase II. That effort is due to run for two years to develop and implement a prototype system to use wireless technologies for a variety of applications in nuclear power plants.
Looks like some big savings can happen at nuclear plants just by keeping up with the latest technologies. And who says nuclear plants are dinosaurs? :-) Here's the 12-page Phase I study if anyone is interested (pdf).

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Don't underestimate the security complications created by wireless at nuclear power plants. Recall that the Slammer virus hit Davis-Besse in 2001 through an unsecured internet connection being used by a contractor. Fortunately the unit was in outage at the time, but the issues involved are non-trivial.

Stephen Muenstermann said...

It has been a few years since this comment appeared. However to address your point through a wireless network you mys understand the design. These infrastructures are of the highest encryption and authentication designs and are isolated to the plant floor and fire-walled as well. Even with the most sophisticated equipment the most that one would be able to do is create a minimal confusion that would be immediately identified by the system. These networks are not open protocols.