Nuclear power provides about one-fifth of U.S. electricity generation, delivering reliable, low-emission, baseload power to the grid. However, the future of nuclear power is unclear; high costs and a rapidly changing grid—including growing renewable resources like wind and solar—present new challenges for existing and new nuclear plants. The next generation of nuclear plants require new technological advances to achieve “walkaway” safe and secure operation, extremely low construction capital costs, and dramatically shorter construction and commissioning times than currently available plants.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
North Carolina State University (NC State) will develop a highly automated management and control system for advanced nuclear reactors. The system will provide operations recommendations to staff during all modes of plant operation except shutdown operations. Using an artificial-intelligence (AI) guided system enabling continuous extensive monitoring of plant status, knowledge of current component status, and plant parameter trends, the system will continuously predict near-term behavior within the plant and recommend a course of action to plant personnel. If successful, this comprehensive, knowledge-based control system for credible, consistent management of plant operations will improve safety and optimize emergency management in advanced reactors. AI-guided models trained on data from plant monitoring instruments combined with expectations generated by advanced modeling and simulation can vastly improve the effectiveness of plant diagnosis and prognosis in plant management, as well as enable vulnerability search in safety analysis. In particular, the system will greatly increase the time available before operator action is required. This means that a significantly smaller operational staff—assisted by instrumentation, operator training, and smart procedures—is needed to manage the plant, reducing overall operational cost.
If successful, developments from MEITNER projects will inform the development of lower cost, safe, and secure advanced nuclear power plants.
Nuclear power plants contribute to grid stability by providing reliable baseload power.
Nuclear power has low life cycle emissions, making it a key source of clean electricity.
Nuclear power provides high-efficiency electrical generation for the U.S. grid. Reducing plant costs reduces exposure to price volatility.