Limerick nuclear power plant (Credit: Exelon)The US Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded a $50 million cost-share with Exelon Generation to digitalise the control room at Limerick Generating Station in Pennsylvania. Once implemented, the facility will house the first fully digital safety system upgrade at a US nuclear power plant.  

“Through this partnership, DOE and Exelon will pave the way for modernisation of control room systems across the US nuclear fleet,” said Dr Kathryn D Huff, Acting Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy. “These upgrades will strengthen the case for extending the operation of US nuclear plants into the future, ensuring we maintain access to our nation’s largest source of emissions-free electricity.” 

Control room digitalisation will enable automation, decrease system interruptions, and improve performance. Ultimately, this will improve operations and reduce costs significantly. As part of the agreement, Exelon will contribute $42 million to the cost-share. The company has retained Westinghouse Electric Company to replace the analogue Reactor Protection System, as well as several other safety-related systems, with digitalised controllers over the next five years.  

This effort marks the first fully digital safety system modernisation using the new ISG-06 Alternate Review Process protocol, which optimizes the process of licensing digital safety system upgrades. 

The results of this effort will be directly applicable to other US boiling water reactors, which represent about one third of the existing nuclear fleet. Pressurised water reactors will also be able to apply the results to inform their own digitalisation efforts. Advanced reactor developers will be able to apply the lessons learned to future reactor demonstrations, DOE said.

Photo: Limerick nuclear power plant (Credit: Exelon)