NIST Processes to Help Build Next-Generation Nuclear Plants

Information exchange processes developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will be at the center of the effort to design and build the next generation of modern, highly efficient nuclear power plants.

New nuclear power plants will be designed, procured and constructed using advanced software applications for three-dimensional modeling and exchange of engineering information. Construction information gleaned from multiple databases and electronic documentation sources also will be used. The power industry and regulators recognize that an automated, integrated and interoperable configuration management capability must be established to maintain consistency between the design requirements and facility configuration documentation to ensure the ability to document and maintain compliance with a plant’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission license.

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) is leading the effort to develop this needed capability for new nuclear plant projects. EPRI assessed the results of the NIST-led Automating Equipment Information Exchange (AEX) project and adopted the AEX methodologies and specifications as foundational technology for achieving this new level of integrated and interoperable configuration management for critical equipment in new nuclear power plants.

AEX provides a common mechanism for designers and manufacturers using varied software applications to exchange data required to engineer, manufacture and install equipment ranging from fans, pumps, valves, heat exchangers and pressure vessels. The AEX XML specifications are used to automate information exchange among various software systems that support capital facility equipment engineering, procurement, construction, and operations and maintenance work processes. XML is a computer language designed to transport and store data.

These XML specifications standardize the names of equipment types and their attributes such as those found on common industry equipment data sheets. “Automated data interfaces between software systems enable significant reductions in manual transcription costs and errors,” says NIST’s Mark Palmer, program manager of the construction integration and automation technologies program in NIST’s Building and Fire Research Laboratory. “The economic benefits of these XML specifications are estimated to be substantial.”

The AEX XML specifications have been adopted by a number of industry and standards development organizations as the basis for new electronic data exchange standards, including the American Petroleum Institute (API), American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Additionally, EPRI adopted the “NIST Capital Facilities Information Handover Guidelines” (NIST Internal Reports 7259 and 7417) to develop a new nuclear plant information handover guide providing a full plant life cycle information strategy establishing the methodology for defining the information requirements and for developing and implementing an information handover plan. The information handover plan is used to achieve comprehensive information management and integration of work processes across all organizations participating in the design, review and construction of the power plant. Palmer is serving as technical advisor on the EPRI project.

For more information on these processes, see

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