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Challenges and Opportunities in Providing a Digital Protection System for the PBMR

[+] Author Affiliations
Johan Marais

Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (Pty.) Ltd., Centurion, Gauteng, South Africa

Charles F. Ridolfo

Westinghouse Electric Company, Windsor, CT

Paper No. HTR2008-58173, pp. 677-686; 10 pages
  • Fourth International Topical Meeting on High Temperature Reactor Technology
  • Fourth International Topical Meeting on High Temperature Reactor Technology, Volume 1
  • Washington, DC, USA, September 28–October 1, 2008
  • Conference Sponsors: ASME
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4854-8 | eISBN: 978-0-7918-3834-1
  • Copyright © 2008 by ASME


The Republic of South Africa is currently developing the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR); an advanced, fourth-generation reactor that incorporates inherent safety features, which require no human intervention and which provide an unprecedented level of nuclear safety. In addition to electrical power generation, the reactor is uniquely suited for a variety of non-traditional nuclear applications including oil sands extraction, desalination, and hydrogen production. A state-of-the-art digital Protection System for the PBMR is currently being developed in conjunction with Westinghouse Electric Company (WEC). The Protection System provides for: • reactor shutdown using two different reactor trip methodologies (dropping of the control rods and insertion of Small Absorber Spheres (SASs) which are composed of boron carbide); • post-event monitoring; and • manual reactor shutdown, which is independent of software-based systems. The reactor shutdown and post-event instrumentation monitoring components of the Protection System are being implemented utilizing the WEC ‘Common Q’ platform, which is comprised of ‘commercially dedicated’ Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), colour-graphic Flat Panel Displays (FPDs) with integral touch screens, and high-speed data communication links. High reliability and availability are achieved through component redundancy, continuous automatic self-testing which is run online in a background mode, and implementation of a multi-channel system design which is tolerant to failures. The Protection System is also designed to support periodic surveillance testing through a suite of built-in computer-aided test facilities that are accessible via an FPD interface. These allow various system surveillance requirements to be readily performed in a convenient and systematic manner. This paper discusses the following topics with regard to the PBMR Protection System: development strategy, functional requirements, selection of applicable Codes and Standards, key design specifications, architectural configuration, design and implementation challenges, and unique opportunities that are provided by this type of Protection System.

Copyright © 2008 by ASME



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