Industrial implementation of intelligent system techniques for nuclear power plant condition monitoring

West, Graeme and Mcarthur, Stephen and Towle, D. (2012) Industrial implementation of intelligent system techniques for nuclear power plant condition monitoring. Expert Systems with Applications, 39 (8). pp. 7432-7440. ISSN 0957-4174 (

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As the nuclear power plants within the UK age, there is an increased requirement for condition monitoring to ensure that the plants are still be able to operate safely. This paper describes the novel application of Intelligent Systems (IS) techniques to provide decision support to the condition monitoring of Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) reactor cores within the UK. The resulting system, BETA (British Energy Trace Analysis) is deployed within the UK’s nuclear operator and provides automated decision support for the analysis of refuelling data, a lead indicator of the health of AGR (Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor) nuclear power plant cores. The key contribution of this work is the improvement of existing manual, labour-intensive analysis through the application of IS techniques to provide decision support to NPP reactor core condition monitoring. This enables an existing source of condition monitoring data to be analysed in a rapid and repeatable manner, providing additional information relating to core health on a more regular basis than routine inspection data allows. The application of IS techniques addresses two issues with the existing manual interpretation of the data, namely the limited availability of expertise and the variability of assessment between different experts. Decision support is provided by four applications of intelligent systems techniques. Two instances of a rule-based expert system are deployed, the first to automatically identify key features within the refuelling data and the second to classify specific types of anomaly. Clustering techniques are applied to support the definition of benchmark behaviour, which is used to detect the presence of anomalies within the refuelling data. Finally data mining techniques are used to track the evolution of the normal benchmark behaviour over time. This results in a system that not only provides support for analysing new refuelling events but also provides the platform to allow future events to be analysed. The BETA system has been deployed within the nuclear operator in the UK and is used at both the engineering offices and on station to support the analysis of refuelling events from two AGR stations, with a view to expanding it to the rest of the fleet in the near future.