Condition Monitoring: Going Nuclear

POWER ENGINEERING MAGAZINE, 2016: COMPLIANCE  is driving growth for nuclear temperature sensors and condition monitoring technology, says Sébastien Ozenda, nuclear division manager for control and instrumentation specialists CMR Group, who considers the role instrumentation is playing in the supply chain.

The nuclear energy market is driven by compliance and with governments around the world committed to the view that nuclear energy has an important role to play in delivering their countries long term requirements for secure, low carbon and affordable energy futures, the amount of regulation can only increase alongside effective and well-resourced regulatory bodies to protect the environment and society from the hazards of nuclear power.

Against such a backdrop, instrumentation is playing an important role in the nuclear supply chain, very high on the radar of customers, who want to know more about how the technology can solve their problems and add value throughout the engineering supply chain. While cost is a factor during negotiation stages, the most important aspect always remains compliance with domestic nuclear safety authorities, who provide regulation and technical approval.

Nowadays, the consideration of technology is far more important than in past years, and totally different. For example, most of the nuclear power station operators have created instrumentation departments to reflect the changing times and priorities which oversees the development and progress of all its nuclear instrumentation related projects. In this context, and on the back of its experience of supplying the sector since the 1980s, CMR has taken the strategic decision to step-up the scope of its new product development work in compliance with new nuclear rules requirements.

Sensors for nuclear applications have traditionally been relatively simple devices with known performance properties and predetermined failure characteristics. However, we are seeing an industry that’s increasingly moving towards ‘smart sensors’ that can achieve greater accuracy, better noise filtering as well as better on-line calibration and featuring the latest diagnostic capability. So, given the potential benefits of smart technology, it remains important for the nuclear industry to develop a suitable approach for justifying the application and integration of smart condition monitoring technology into wider systems that are safety critical.

In addition, smart, better connected products offer opportunities for new functionality, far greater reliability, higher product utilisation, and value added capabilities that cut across and transcend traditional product boundaries. The changing nature of products is also affecting value chains, forcing nuclear operators to rethink their requirements while reshaping industry boundaries and creating new opportunities through ‘smarter’ connectivity.

So in a compliance driven sector, is product differentiation important? Successful differentiation in the nuclear sector relies on an incisive understanding before developing and positioning your products. With over 30 years’ sector experience CMR has moved to meet customer needs with a suite high performance, high quality precision sensors that are being utilised to cover all applications and compliance standards.

For EDF, the development of new condition monitoring sensors encompassed specific ambient conditions and qualification requirements, which involved extensive analysis to identify product performance criteria before moving towards final product design and commission. This led to our nuclear temperature sensors being certified compliant for not just one specific project but as many as possible being developed by the nuclear giant. This approach breaks with that taken by others within the sector - and is a strength that provides real added value differentiation in a competitive market.

It’s also something that we can take into the global marketplace. France is a primary market but our strategy will also be applicable to other countries investing in their nuclear infrastructures, where it will gain increasing traction for us as new facilities come on stream and existing plants adopt new condition monitoring technologies to improve or extend their operational life span.

We are seeing nuclear power proliferation around the world in China, South Korea, USA, Canada, India, Japan and the EU, heralding opportunities for our K3 or K3ad sensors. These are environmentally compliant for the ambient temperature monitoring of fluid, gas and bearing temperatures and will compete for market share in an industry where there are only a handful of manufacturers designing and producing qualified instruments.

A growing presence with new contracts in China and South Korea will see order book growth as the needs of each country’s regulatory authority are met with compliant-ready technology.

Against the backdrop of a transitioning global nuclear industry, the future for companies who have a defined strategy supported by experience and technical expertise, has to be seen as strong. Our ambition is to be qualified to meet the highest compliance requirements in the nuclear sector. CMR’s ambitions are clear - we want to become an international leader in the sector, providing the same standards of quality and approval that we already deliver to French and EU markets to global customers.

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