The Challenging Role of an NRC Instrumentation and Controls Engineer

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.

Erick Martinez
Electronics Engineer

NRC Engineer Recognized For National Award

He’s got a list of accomplishments as long as your arm – a fellow in four nuclear, science and engineering organizations, a PhD in nuclear engineering, an NRC Meritorious Service Award and an appointment as a Colonel in the Maryland Defense Force’s 121st Engineer Regiment.

Now Steven Arndt, a senior technical advisor at the NRC, has a new one – Federal Engineer of the Year, from the National Society of Professional Engineers.

“Dr. Steven Arndt is an outstanding professional, who has made substantial contributions to the work of the NRC over many years,” said NRC Chairman Jaczko. “I congratulate him on being named Federal Engineer of the Year, which is a great honor, and well-deserved recognition for Dr. Arndt. We are proud that he is part of the NRC staff.”

This award is the only one of its kind to solely recognize outstanding engineers employed in the federal government.

Dr. Arndt has worked at the NRC for 24 years. While his past accomplishments are many, it’s his most recent work that has been in the spotlight of late. During the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, he responded to the NRC Operation Center and put to work his expertise in severe accident analysis. He spent several months on rotating shifts and developed the U.S. analysis of the Japanese report to the International Ministerial meeting on the event. He also helped prioritize the NRC’s near term recommendations for U.S. nuclear plants based on “lessons learned” from the Japan nuclear emergency.

Dr. Arndt has also led the development of new regulatory guidance on the use of digital instrumentation and control systems for the 104 operating nuclear power plants in the U.S., specifically on requirements for “diversity and defense-in-depth” in digital protection systems, cyber security, and methods for evaluating the reliability of digital systems.

And he also helped develop new state-of-the-art methods to assess the reliability of safety critical digital systems and developed guidance to support the introduction of new digital safety systems into current and future nuclear power plants.

While the descriptions of what he’s been doing throughout his career might be over the head of most non-engineers, the bottom line is that nuclear power plants here and around the world are safer today because of his efforts.

Outside the office, Dr Arndt stays busy, too. In addition to supporting the Maryland Army and Air Force National Guard, he volunteers as an advisor to the engineering program at Ohio State University, has worked on developing high school exams for students in Ohio and worked with the International Dyslexia Society to support program that help dyslexic student excel in the classroom.

The NRC is proud of the work done by Dr. Arndt and applauds his selection for this prestigious award.

Eric Leeds
Director, Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation