At the Center for Advanced Engineering Research (CAER) in Forest, VA, USA, extensive training and testing is under way to examine the next generation of human-computer interactions in nuclear power plant simulation. In the state-of-the-art Research and Education facility, the large scale simulation room is being used to test the safety and security of new software-based instrumentation and control systems. As these types of control systems are being installed in nuclear power plants, potential issues that can affect safety and security need to be assessed.
- Enhanced safe operation above and beyond the previous generation of nuclear power plants.
- Cyber-security, as new plant electronic systems and controls will be nearly all digital and highly interconnected.
- Control room layout and design, which can greatly affect human interaction and performance within these complex plants.
- Advanced high performance modeling and simulations of plant operations in a virtual environment to predict and better understand potential problems with new plant designs.
With 48 standard screens and 7 large-scale monitors, operators are able to monitor in real time all portions of the simulation (provided by GSE Systems), which represent the parts of a nuclear power plant. During the simulation, operators are provided with “failures” in the system, and control room personnel are interested in how the operators deal with these failures: procedures followed, accuracy of steps, and speed with which the failures are addressed.
Noldus Information Technology has played an integral part in outfitting this high-tech simulation room at the CAER facility. Noldus tools facilitate unobtrusive observations of nuclear power plant and reactor operators. The Observer® XT sits at the hub, simultaneously triggering Media Recorder software to record from the many IP cameras and microphones located throughout the simulation room, and allowing testers in the control room to carry out high-level coding of events during the simulation. During testing, operators in the simulation room wear Tobii Smart IR glasses and Biopac physiological devices to capture eye gaze and physiological information, respectively. This data is then synchronized to the live recordings, within The Observer XT software, to provide researchers at the facility a more complete view of operator behavior during the simulation tasks. After all data is gathered, researchers can then go back to the synchronized recordings and data to examine in closer detail what occurred during selected intervals, particularly during reactor malfunctions.