NEI’s Top Industry Practice Awards recognize innovation in the nuclear energy industry. Presented at NEI’s annual conference, the awards honor accomplishments that help the industry improve safety, streamline processes and increase efficiency.
In a special series of articles this week, Nuclear Energy Overview highlights the challenges and successes of five winners.
The winners of the TIP Training Award further enhanced their facility’s training by developing a way for reactor operators to hone their skills through advanced simulator training.
The plant simulation department at American Electric Power’s D.C. Cook facility in Michigan developed a 17-foot-by-7-foot rear-projection touchscreen that supports several different virtual simulations, including control room panels, safety-related field equipment and chemistry training. The system, which also includes computers for 30 students, is designed to mimic the responses of real equipment.
“You flip a switch, you turn a knob, you adjust a knob—everything’s the same,” said simulator supervisor Tim Vriezema.
According to Vriezema, bringing in supervisors and equipment experts was essential to ensure the simulations were as realistic as possible.
“They can tell you what feels wrong. They can say, ‘That responds too quickly,’ ‘This doesn’t feel right,’ so you can fine-tune it,” he said.
Training on simulators rather than on duplicate equipment has benefits for plant operators.
First, “you can actually see how what you’re doing is affecting [the equipment]. The physics behind the model is displayable,” Vriezema said.
Acquiring and maintaining duplicate safety equipment for training purposes would have cost American Electric Power $153,000 more than the simulator training development did. Simulator training also takes place outside of radiation-protected areas, keeping employees out of high-dose areas while they are learning.
Vriezema praised the simulation department for its work on the project—not their first to garner recognition throughout the industry.
“It’s a staff of five, and this is the third time we’ve won [a TIP Award]. I have a very, very gifted and creative staff. You throw out an idea and they just run with it.”