Big data meets nuclear power

Diagnosing potential problems at nuclear plants can take significant time and plant resources. While huge amounts of data are now available through on-line monitoring systems and other condition assessment devices, separating the wheat from the chaff to find an imminent or emerging problem is no simple task.

EPRI is developing a prognostics and health management software tool that nuclear plants could use to support such efforts. For example, an unusually high temperature reading for a pump or motor bearing can be the first sign of equipment problems, but if it is corrected promptly extensive damage can be avoided. The software automatically recognizes the high temperature reading and alerts the user, setting out the possible problems causing that condition. The software then obtains other information from the user to determine which of several possible problems needs to be corrected.

The software tool, called Fleet-Wide Prognostics and Health Management (FW-PHM), enhances monitoring by integrating a number of technologies, including on-line advanced pattern recognition, automated diagnostics, and remaining useful life (RUL) algorithms. The tool was pilot-tested at several nuclear plants in 2013, and demonstrated that it could reduce the time it takes to diagnose problems and allow system engineers to focus their efforts on solving them. The full software package will be available for broader use by the middle of this year.

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