The I&C systems are designed to initiate automatic action to keep the plant at the optimized operating condition and ensure safety at any time, even shutting down the plant, if necessary. Modern I&C systems allow for automatic, remote diagnostic, analytical, and self-testing capabilities to support the operators by maintaining knowledge of the state of all plant processes and the availability of all components over their entire lifetime. Therefore I&C ensures plant safety while keeping the highest levels of plant productivity and efficiency.
At a nuclear power plant, all electrical and I&C equipment like sensors, cabling, and signal processing and actuation units must be fault-free while withstanding challenging conditions such as high temperatures and radiation. Probability-based risk assessments (PRAs) and hazard analyzes provide us with necessary information about these different conditions. All components used to ensure the plant's safety are to be proven to withstand these conditions. Particular attention is on all software that realizes the functionality of I&C systems. The suitability of all components is proven in due course by testing in laboratories and realistic test environments during design and manufacturing. The overall target is to confirm that the plant's automation systems are failure-free and work in all conditions as intended while keeping the operators aware of the plant's overall status.
An essential aspect of I&C is the Human Machine Interface (HMI), which essentially consists of computers operated by the operating staff via different workstations and panels. Advanced information systems that support operators recognize and counteract plant emergencies help operators in decision-making and prevent possible human errors. A systematic approach to Human Factors Engineering (HFE) is applied throughout the design process to ensure that the HMI is presented with high quality and is reliable and under operators' expectations, abilities, and limitations.
I could explain all this with a simple example familiar to everybody: When driving a car, you expect to rely on the information that is presented in the cockpit, and in case of an alarm or a dangerous situation, you expect to be supported adequately and safely by the electronic systems. A faulty notice or an inadequate response of an electronic support system even under "normal" driving conditions can cause an unsafe situation.
The plant supplier RAOS Project, is responsible for the I&C design of Hanhikivi 1 nuclear power plant. RAOS Project has recently nominated Rusatom Automated Control Systems JSC (RASU) as the general designer and supplier of the I&C for the Hanhikivi 1 project and has chosen the German-French Framatome-Siemens consortium as the supplier of the main I&C systems. Also, other I&C suppliers will design and supply specific I&C systems that will be integrated into the overall I&C architecture.
My team's task is to provide independent oversight of the design and processes' realization to ensure that I&C fulfills the functional, operational, and safety needs and that the final product is qualified. We are continuously discussing with the plant supplier on optimizing the design, both in engineering and in assessing the design's safety. We coordinate the I&C design with the other units in Fennovoima and harmonize the technical interfaces between different functions. Furthermore, we are in contact with the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) to ensure compliance with Finnish regulations.
Hanhikivi 1 is a complex project, and, as experience tells, I&C design is late compared to plant layout, building, and process system design. While our team has many things to catch up on and promote in parallel, we are making progress in getting the design ready for the construction license application. Of course, the work is challenging. We have in-depth technical discussions almost every day. The goal of all of us is to design a safe nuclear power plant with the highest operational reliability levels. There are many ways to achieve this, so reaching a shared vision is essential. I am sure that our team will establish this together with the plant supplier and develop a design that is accepted by Fennovoima, the owners, and the authorities.
Karl-Heinz Wiening has worked in the nuclear power industry for more than 40 years, twenty of them in I&C. Karl-Heinz has been leading Fennovoima's team responsible for automation and control room functions since the beginning of 2019, after retiring for six days.