The Challenging Role of an NRC Instrumentation and Controls Engineer
March 5, 2012
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NRC I&C technical reviewers visit a digital I&C control room simulator for APR-1400 in Daejun, Korea.
Among the many interesting and challenging jobs at the NRC is that of an Instrumentation and Controls (I&C) engineer. I&C systems are important because they monitor all aspects of the plant, make adjustments to the plant’s protection and control systems as needed, and help respond to plant events.
Currently, there are around 15 I&C engineers in the Office of New Reactors (NRO), where I work. We perform a wide variety of tasks, ranging from the technical review of a new reactor design’s I&C systems to conducting research, in coordination with other offices in the NRC, on the latest technology and relevant processes.
While people may assume that I&C engineers only work on projects related to the design and implementation of I&C systems, this is not the case. Our engineering principles and knowledge also help ensure that NRC regulations in a variety of areas have been adequately addressed by applicants and licensees as they build and operate new nuclear power plants.
New nuclear power plants use a multitude of digital devices that are usually part of the plant’s safety systems. This extensive use of advanced digital technology requires that we conduct careful reviews. Such reviews are especially critical when you consider that I&C equipment and design practices for new reactor designs are significantly different from those for current operating reactors.
I review and analyze various technical engineering documents, especially license applications for new nuclear plants. During the review I, and other members of the staff, thoroughly examine the applicant’s I&C design as it relates to engineering. This includes reviewing the entire design’s sensors, indications and controls, as well as conducting a detailed and diverse analysis on the structure and functions of the design’s digital I&C safety systems. Our review ensures the facility’s design complies with NRC regulations
The agency’s I&C engineers are committed to effectively and efficiently reviewing the digital technology in I&C designs for both operating and new reactors. Today’s new reactor designs depend on digital systems more than ever. Ultimately, our goal in all I&C reviews is to ensure that these systems are built adequately and that the designs fully meet the NRC’s regulations.