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Grant
Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: STTR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 999.87K | Year: 2013

Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are one of the most compelling options for meeting the growing clean energy demands of the U.S. While safer and costing less to build and operate than their conventional counterparts, the unique requirements of SMRs pose significant challenges to the maintenance of their I & amp;C systems, especially due to the likelihood of fewer process sensors. Lacking the sensor redundancy found in conventional nuclear plant I & amp;C systems, SMR operators need to amass a greater understanding of the health of both the sensors and the measured processes than operators of conventional reactors. In conventional nuclear reactors, advanced data analysis through On-Line Monitoring (OLM) has successfully correlated the normal output of existing sensors to the health of the sensors, equipment, and plant processes. The same success can be achieved for SMRs through the research and development effort proposed here. This is a proposal for the adoption of Online Monitoring (OLM) technology for condition based assessment of instrumentation and control (I & amp;C) systems, in-vessel equipment, and other small and large components of SMRs. This technology can help provide a means for incipient failure detection and prediction of remaining useful life of equipment. The project will provide: 1) guidance to SMR vendors as to the provisions in the design of SMRs necessary to facilitate OLM implementation, and 2) an OLM system design including hardware, software, and data analysis algorithms for calibration monitoring, predictive maintenance, and detection of anomalies in SMR equipment and processes. In Phase I, the feasibility of an OLM system for SMRs was established by using existing OLM techniques on iPWR simulator data. This formed the basis for identifying SMR-specific improvements needed for OLM in Phase II. This R & amp;D project will employ a comprehensive, hands-on approach to advance the state of OLM technology to address the maintenance needs of SMRs. The project will have 5 primary goals: 1) establish provisions in SMR designs for OLM integration, 2) develop empirical and physical models of SMRs to customize and validate OLM algorithms and software, 3) build OLM data acquisition system for SMRs, 4) evaluate the use of diagnostics and prognostics for real-time asset management in SMRs, 5) build a prototype OLM system for SMRs and implement on an SMR simulator. The end result of this project is to design a commercial OLM system for SMRs. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits: The product of this work will be sold to SMR vendors both domestically and internationally for implementation as plants come online in the future. The OLM system can be incorporated into SMR designs or provided later as an add-on. The results of this research will serve as a catalyst for the successful deployment of SMRs, which provide an affordable, clean, proliferation-resistant, and flexible energy source. Additional beneficiaries of this updated technology include NASA (who is currently developing extra-terrestrial reactors) and the United States military (who has expressed interest in portable, long-term energy sources.)


Patent
Analysis and Measurement Services Corporation | Date: 2016-04-29

A method of identifying changes in a host material having a thermocouple embedded therein which includes using a Loop Current Step Response (LCSR) test method on a first thermocouple to obtain thermocouple LCSR data for the first thermocouple, recording the obtained thermocouple LCSR data within a storage medium, placing a second thermocouple identical to the first thermocouple at different location within a host material, monitoring sensor response data for second the thermocouple, comparing the sensor response data for the second thermocouple with the thermocouple LCSR data of the first thermocouple stored within the storage medium and identifying changes in the host material based on differences in sensor response data for the second thermocouple based on the stored thermocouple LCSR data of the first thermocouple.


Patent
Analysis and Measurement Services Corporation | Date: 2014-08-07

A temperature detector and method of measuring temperature to obtain temperature readings in environments, such as fluids and gasses, by measuring electrical characteristics of the temperature detector that are influenced by the temperature. The temperature detector can be arranged such that a plurality of measurements can be obtained to provide sufficient diversity and redundancy of the measurements for enhanced diagnostics to be performed, such as optimization for fast dynamic response, calibration stability, in-situ response time testability, and in-situ calibration testability.


Patent
Analysis and Measurement Services Corporation | Date: 2016-05-03

Systems and methods of monitoring a rod control system of a nuclear power plant, including calculating impedance of at least one coil of a rod movement mechanism non-intrusively while the system is operating, comparing a measured impedance to a reference impedance, and determining if the measured impedance deviates from the reference impedance value by a predetermined amount to indicate degradation of the rod control system.


Grant
Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 999.22K | Year: 2013

A light water reactor is equipped with control and shutdown rods which are inserted into and withdrawn from the reactor core to control reactivity. The positioning of the control and shutdown rods is performed in Combustion Engineering designed plants with the control element drive mechanism system, which includes a number of subsystems and components critical to safe and reliable plant operation. Aging and obsolescence issues have resulted in failures and plant downtimes that could have been prevented or mitigated by monitoring the condition of system components. The complex design of the control element drive mechanism system inherently creates a need for an on-line diagnostics system that can improve system health monitoring, troubleshooting, and trending capabilities. This proposal offers to benefit the plants through increased system reliability, reduced plant downtime, and improved troubleshooting capabilities. The Phase I project established the feasibility of continuous on-line health monitoring, advanced fault detection, and diagnostic techniques for the control element drive mechanism system. This provides a non-intrusive solution using existing plant signals for detecting component failures and degradation. The Phase I effort resulted in many techniques and applications which will provide significant benefits to this aging system. In Phase II, a research and development effort will prototype a comprehensive health monitoring and diagnostic solution for the control element drive mechanism system. This prototype system will integrate automated data collection with the monitoring, fault detection and diagnostic techniques developed in the Phase I effort. This system will be designed, developed, validated, and demonstrated in the proposing firms laboratory and at participating nuclear power plant facilities. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits: This Phase II effort will result in three commercial product designs including a portable field test system, a permanently installed comprehensive system, and field testing services to evaluate the control element drive mechanism system using the techniques and tools developed under this project. These products are currently applicable to nearly 40 existing and planned future power plants.


Grant
Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 224.53K | Year: 2013

Obsolescence, aging, reliability, and performance issues are driving nuclear facilities to replace conventional analog I & amp;C systems with digital technologies. The increased complexity of digital systems, compared to their analog counterparts, has resulted in faults that are often more difficult to detect, classify, and correct. Experience in the nuclear industry has shown that traditional software quality assurance processes should be improved to be more effective at discovering and rectifying these faults. The goal of this project is to develop a Software Reliability Tester (SRT) that will provide a means to quantify the reliability and fault tolerance of digital I & amp;C systems used in nuclear facilities. The SRT will include capabilities to 1) perform statistical testing on the digital I & amp;C to quantify its reliability before implementation, 2) systematically test and identify faults that were not tested in the design/development phase, and 3) establish warning signals/regions for when the plant instrumentation is outside of the normal range. The proposed SRT will dramatically reduce the validation time for the qualification testing by providing a quantifiable system reliability and fault tolerance assessment. The SRT will provide independent verification of reliability and fault tolerance before a digital system is implemented, and will help eliminate incidents of digital equipment malfunction during all stages of the equipment lifecycle. This is particularly important for vital plant services that affect public safety. This will greatly benefit the nuclear industry and the public by reducing the testing time, installation time, and downtime inherent in digital system upgrades, thus providing more reliable power generation and minimizing electricity costs to the public.


Grant
Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 224.45K | Year: 2013

No method currently exists for detecting intermittent faults in nuclear power plant cable circuits, which include circuit components, connectors, and end devices. Conventional techniques can locate hard faults, such as open or short circuits, but not the intermittent faults that occur occasionally. Furthermore, conventional testing techniques require circuits to be removed from service, disconnected, and de-energized, fundamentally altering the electrical properties which are being evaluated. These intermittent faults can result in signal spiking of process measurements, invariably leading to false alarms and plant trips which increase costs and reduce power production. Furthermore, these faults have a negative impact on plant safety and reliability. During the proposed Phase I project, AMS will recreate cable circuits in its laboratory facilities and examine coupling methods for signal injection onto energized circuits. Additionally, several established cable diagnostic methods currently used in disconnected cable circuits will be applied to live cables in order to determine effective testing techniques. AMS will investigate appropriate practices to ensure that plant equipment is isolated during the live test through the use of capacitors, buffers, and filters. The results of the laboratory research will be used to determine appropriate testing procedures for on-site testing of nuclear power plants and other industrial facilities in order to detect intermittent faults that cannot be found today. The knowledge gained in Phase I will be put to practice by development of an online monitoring system for detection of intermittent faults in nuclear power plant cables. Successful commercialization of this product will result in improved understanding of electrical degradation and cable conditioning monitoring. This will result in safer, more reliable, and more efficient electricity generation from nuclear power plants. The benefits of this research will extend to other industries, such as commercial aviation, in which fault detection of critical circuits is essential to passenger safety.


Grant
Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 999.48K | Year: 2014

As nuclear power plants extend their operating life beyond 40 years, attention is being focused on the health of the insulation material of important cables. Faced with the prospect of an extremely expensive, wholesale replacement of thousands of miles of cables, nuclear facilities need a cost-effective, non-destructive, remote, and in-situ method to determine whether or not cables are healthy or should be replaced. While other products exist to identify conductor faults, there is no method available to assess the health and the remaining useful life (RUL) of the insulation material of installed cables. To address this problem, Frequency Domain Reflectometry (FDR), an in-situ non-destructive test, will be performed on cables typically used in the nuclear industry. These cables will undergo accelerated aging to simulate the natural aging process that occurs in a nuclear power plant. As they age, FDR measurements will be compared with a standard laboratory test known as elongation at break (EAB) to correlate the results and provide estimations of a cables health and RUL. During Phase I, a subset of nuclear power plant cables were thermally aged over the entire duration of the project. During this aging process, FDR measurements were compared to EAB results to assess insulation elasticity which is an industry-accepted measure of insulation health. The results demonstrated that FDR could be closely correlated to EAB. In Phase II, AMS will expand the research to include a larger population of cable types commonly found in nuclear power plants. Cable samples will be obtained and subjected to aging conditions while recording and correlating FDR measurements with the cable age. These correlations will be incorporated into a test system for nuclear facilities to assess the health of a cable and determine its RUL. Commercial Applications and OtherBenefits: The FDR correlations with cable health and RUL will be packaged with commercial hardware and custom software to provide a cost-effective solution for implementing a cable aging management program to satisfy regulatory guidelines. This system will identify and locate insulation problems and provide plant operators with a condition-based assessment of installed cable.


Grant
Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 1.50M | Year: 2014

Replacement of obsolete analog systems with software-based digital systems in nuclear facilities has been hindered by significant costs associated with traditional quality assurance testing. This project proposes advanced software validation tools that will ensure that digital systems are safe, reliable, and cost effective for the nuclear industry.


Grant
Agency: Department of Energy | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 1.47M | Year: 2014

As the current fleet of operating nuclear power plants ages, equipment degrades and causes increased incidences of failures which lead to plant shutdowns. This proposal offers to develop testing technology for fault detection in live electrical circuits to identify and resolve problems as they occur.

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