Driving Digital Transformation Across the Nuclear Industry

Author: Kris Bradshaw, Sales and Marketing Director Capula

In these challenging and uncertain times: climate change, rising energy costs, financial instability and the uncertainty of the geopolitical landscape, the energy we use and the security around this has become ever more important.

To meet Paris Agreement targets aiming to limit increase in global temperatures to less than 1.5ºc, worldwide energy use must transition to cleaner and more sustainable energy sources.

Nuclear power is the most reliable, low-carbon energy source currently available to the UK and the country is already constructing the first of a new generation of nuclear plants, including Hinkley Point C, combined with strong support for a programme of new reactors, whilst extending the lifespan of a number of existing plants.

For over 50 years, Capula, part of the wider EDF Group, has been delivering full life cycle support to the nuclear industry as a leading industrial automation and control systems integrator for digital solutions and services, with over 240 trained and competent nuclear engineers.

With decades of experience delivering technology agnostic digital solutions for the UK’s nuclear energy infrastructure, Capula supports the evolving nuclear sector as it transitions to and plays a central role in enabling net zero.

Digitalisation has an extremely important role to play across the nuclear lifecycle including delivering the next generation of nuclear power plants, extending the life of current nuclear assets, or providing support to nuclear waste management and decommissioning. Digitalisation can provide significant advantages in the form of increased reliability and efficiency, combined with the reduction of risk.

At Capula we support nuclear clients going through transition by using digitalisation to enable them to create resilience, improve their planning, enhance implementation, and raise effectiveness.

Importantly this digitalisation links the more traditional control systems with the ability to combine data from many different sources, enabling information to be contextualised in a business sense and to be understood by all.

Take, for example, PLC, SCADA and Telemetry systems which traditionally have played a key role in daily operations for customers within the nuclear space. These systems provide firsthand, real-time access to discrete process and plant information, enabling operational staff to perform efficiently and safely. But this information is very often siloed with many different automation systems working across multiple sites and accessed only by certain individuals. As such, providing data relevant to specific sites but not the business as a whole. Combine this with data that is engineering biased, and it becomes very difficult to translate this into a business context.

Moreso than ever, businesses are now embracing how valuable operational data is to their long-term success and the part it plays in maximizing profits, driving efficiency and being one step ahead of the competition. This is especially the case if that data can be contextualized with additional data sources - for example third party data systems such as weather, or I.T related information, coming from or going to SAP or work asset management systems.

Digitalisation ties all this together. It enables customers to seamlessly combine data from many different sources (IT, OT and Third Parties), breaks down the barriers between the IT and OT worlds and, most importantly, enables the data to be contextualised in a business sense, enabling quick, real-time informed decisions to be taken, not only at plant level but operation wide.

By contextualising engineering data into business information, it can be understood by all. Couple this with an additional layer of analysis, and companies are then able to predict future events, for example, market trends, maintenance routines, regulatory compliance thresholds and operational plant differences. This additional layer of information can prove invaluable to businesses in driving operational change, reducing costs and becoming more competitive.

Capula is already working with many nuclear clients using a combination of tools to resolve business issues and challenges including:

  • Predictive analytics - gathering data from nuclear power plants and analysing this to enable smart decisions including allowing for pre-failure maintenance
  • Obtaining real-time operational status of plant and equipment to enable early notification of issues
  • Predicting the risk of adverse events using historical data to identify cause and ensure prevention
  • Increasing visibility and making sure all relevant parts of an organisation have access to information including assets, plant and operational performance across every business layer, taking this data and using it to enhance operational efficiency, reduce costs, eliminate downtime, enhance decision making and improve safety
  • Simulation and digital twin technology modelling designed to prove system use prior to investment and integration and to accelerate programmes.

Digitalisation is enabling the nuclear industry to increase efficiency and quality, cut unplanned downtime, reduce costs, improve reliability of equipment and improve safety. It is helping to move to new ways of working that focus on achieving outcomes and actions influenced by insights from trusted data that combines OT time-series data with IT engineering data in a way that provide the contextualisation for models and dashboards. The nuclear industry (whether in new construction, extending the life of fleet, fuel management or decommissioning) needs new ways of working and this can be achieved through digitalisation.

Capula is helping support this transformation of the nuclear sector through the application of innovative digitalisation. Across the nuclear industry - and many of its key projects - we have managed change programmes in an effective way, increasing efficiency and operational performance utilising the latest technology and building on our foundation of over 50 years operational experience and practice.

Originally published by Industry Link on 1st December at https://www.niauk.org/industry...

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