Swedish nuclear power plants gets help from help in safety about safety

Published: 29 March 2012

The Swedish nuclear power plants will modernize the technical processes in the control rooms. That the technological change is working in conjunction with the operator's capacity to control and monitor the nuclear power plant in an optimal manner, is extremely important from a security perspective. Swedish Radiation Protection Authority (SSM) will therefore take the help of researchers in human-machine systems at Luleå University of Technology and Chalmers University in Gothenburg. Researchers will contribute knowledge to evaluate the safety of modernization.

- If you do not customize the information presented in the control room operator's needs, constraints and opportunities, you can create great difficulties and serious problems in the interpretation of the process plant. The interaction between people and technology must be considered in every design change in the control room, says Håkan Alm, professor and researcher in engineering psychology at Luleå University of Technology.

In the control room of the nuclear power plants,  operators is to control and monitor the various processes. Control Room modernization with increased computerization, means that information about and control of the process in the nuclear power plant, will be more and more via screen shots. The effects of the change as researchers in human factors at the university and Chalmers will help to evaluate. Previously, control of the process of nuclear power plants normally taken from the wall-based physical instruments and controls.

- The nuclear power is one extremely conscious of safety, but the complexity of human-machine system is that it is not an easy task to perform risk analyzes related to human error, says Anna-Lisa Osvalder, professor of human-machine systems at Chalmers.

We humans generally have limitations when it comes to process information under time pressure in an emergency. When there is an emergency situation in a nuclear power station, emergency systems, are set in motion. Operators in the control room must act in a proper way according to checklists and alarm information presented. They must rapidly understand the alarms that are most important, what alarms triggered by the second alarm, the cause of the alarm - and fix the problem.

The nuclear accident in Harrisburg in 1979, which led to the partial meltdown, sparked so many alarm systems at the same time that they hampered the operators' safety. Although the nuclear accident in Fukushima March 11, 2011 was affected by deficiencies in the inspection.

- In case of nuclear accidents in Harrisburg and Fukushima was the operators incorrect information about the cooling water level, and therefore took precautions in error, says Håkan Alm.