Nuclear Science


Advanced Instrumentation & Controls


Supervisory Control Logic for Multiple Units

Nuclear Science research supports the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in conducting R&D on advanced instrumentation and controls for a variety of applications for nuclear reactors and nuclear systems. Instrumentation & Control (I&C) system design and analysis is a core competency at ORNL, in particular for reactor I&C systems. ORNL has over 60 years of experience with the design, development, implementation, and analysis of nuclear power reactor I&C systems and equipment. ORNL looks at today’s critical issues for digital I&C systems for Generation III+ and Generation IV reactor designs, as well as for small modular reactors (SMRs) and non-power (research and test) reactors. Overall capabilities range from measurement science to developing sensors to designing digital systems to deploying I&C systems. More specifically, staff has applied expertise as related to:

  • Developing sensors for harsh environments;
  • Designing control systems for nuclear system applications;
  • Integrating I&C systems into experimental loops;
  • Identifying R&D needs for developing I&C for advanced reactors including high temperature reactors;
  • Qualifying and licensing of I&C systems for meeting regulatory requirements;
  • Determining failure modes of digital I&C systems;
  • Identifying communication vulnerabilities for safety-related applications for control room designs;
  • Classifying digital systems to support NRC evaluations as digital systems are employed at existing and new plants; and
  • Developing courses on the design and operation of field programmable gate arrays.

ORNL staff is engaged in assisting DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) in leading R&D efforts and identifying I&C R&D needs as a part of the several R&D programs and initiatives that DOE-NE supports. ORNL:

  • Leads the instrumentation & controls and human-machine interface (ICHMI) technical area in DOE-NE’s advanced SMR R&D program, defining and coordinating the I&C R&D being conducted under this program;
  • Supports the advanced sensor and instrumentation in helping define cross cutting I&C R&D projects as well as conducting specific R&D projects for DOE-NE’s Nuclear Energy Enabling Technology program; and
  • Leads the I&C work in support of the non-destructive evaluation efforts under DOE-NE’s Light-Water Reactor Sustainability program.
Wave level experiment

In-Vessel Ultrasonic Guided Wave Level Measurement Experiment

Experimental work in support of reactor related I&C R&D is performed in both the Sensor Development Lab (SDL) and the newly established Sensors and Measurement Systems Lab (SaMS). In the SDL, new measurement and detection techniques are developed and tested. Novel detector materials for measuring temperature, level, and radiation are developed. The SDL is designed to support testing and experiments that involve high temperatures, high voltages, use of lasers, use of sealed radiation sources, and fabrication of detector materials. SaMS provides the capability, equipment, and infrastructure to support demonstration of prototype and COTS sensors in realistic environments, as well as verify and validate the modeling and simulations of these sensor systems. It offers a wide range of signal generation, data acquisition, and control actuation capabilities on multiple platforms for both stationary and mobile applications.

ORNL staff members are internationally recognized I&C experts who consult with a number of foreign entities, support International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) consultancies and activities, and participate the activities of relevant standards’ bodies developing consensus standards.

For more information, contact:

Group Leader, Advanced Reactor Systems and Safety
Gary Mays

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