A study sponsored by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission study was conducted to investigate digital instrumentation and control (DI&C) systems—and module-level failure modes—using a number of databases both in the nuclear and non-nuclear industries. The objectives of the study were to obtain relevant operational experience data to identify generic DI&C system failure modes and failure mechanisms, and to obtain generic insights, with the intent of using results to establish a unified framework for categorizing failure modes and mechanisms.
Of the seven databases studied, the Equipment Performance Information Exchange database was found to contain the most useful data relevant to the study. Even so, the general lack of “quality” relative to the objectives of the study did not allow the development of a unified framework for failure modes and mechanisms of nuclear I&C systems. However, an attempt was made to characterize all the failure modes observed (i.e., without regard to the type of I&C equipment under consideration) into common categories. It was found that all the failure modes identified could be characterized as (a) detectable/preventable before failures, (b) age-related failures, (c) random failures, (d) random/sudden failures, or (e) intermittent failures. The percentage of failure modes characterized as (a) was significant, implying that a significant reduction in system failures could be achieved through improved online monitoring, exhaustive testing prior to installation, adequate configuration control or verification and validation, etc.