Floating nuclear power in the South China Sea
/ Measuring Success with Michael Chatlani, VP, Marketing & Sales at L3 MAPPs /
Could you briefly introduce the L3 MAPPS company and its suite of power plant simulation products?
For over 45 years, L3 MAPPS has been a pioneer in the power plant simulation business. In fact, L3 MAPPS entered the field in 1973 when we started developing our first nuclear power plant simulator for the Pickering A plant located in Ontario, Canada. L3 MAPPS is located in Montreal, Canada and is a subsidiary of L3 Technologies, a Fortune 500 company. L3 MAPPS delivers a wide range of products and services including full scope operator training simulators, engineering simulators, classroom simulators, learning simulators, part-task trainers and severe accident simulation. Our simulation solutions are based on the Orchid® simulation environment, a state-of-the-art, intuitive and graphical software platform for the full simulator lifecycle from design and development through to operation and maintenance. One of the major reasons for our simulators is to train plant personnel (e.g. operators, engineers, technicians, emergency response organisation personnel, and others) to safely and reliably operate the generating assets. Today, you will find our power plant simulators being used by discerning operators around the world—from North America to Latin America, across Europe, in South Africa and throughout Asia.
What do you believe are the core challenges facing today's nuclear power plants in the context of simulation?
For new power plants, it is important to train the plant personnel during plant construction to support plant start-up. In the case of a nuclear power plant, the full scope simulator needs to be ready for training 12 to 24 months before fuel loading in the reactor vessel to allow enough time for operators to obtain their operating licences. The challenge with this aggressive schedule is that the plant design is still being adjusted at the time when the simulator is required to be in service. Since new plants are highly digitalised, changes can be made much later in the plant construction phase. L3 MAPPS has extensive new build experience and has developed innovative ways to overcome this challenge. L3 MAPPS not only delivers operator training simulators but also engineering simulators that can be used to perform verification and validation of the plant’s Digital Control Systems (DCSs). The simulators can also be used for many other applications such as procedures validation, emergency response organisation training, and human performance training, to name a few. L3 MAPPS also offers learning technologies to facilitate the training of personnel entering the power industry covering the full training lifecycle from familiarisation of plant equipment (Learning Modules), plant systems (System Knowledge Modules) and the overall plant behaviour (Learning Simulators). These learning technologies, specifically designed for young learners and other newcomers, are fully interactive with 3-D and 2-D visualisations for better understanding and retention.
For existing power plants, the ageing workforce is a major challenge that utilities must deal with. A large number of nuclear power plants were built in the 1970s and 1980s, which means that a large portion of the workforce has already retired or is ready to retire. Therefore, it is important to have a good pipeline of qualified personnel to operate, maintain and upgrade the ageing power plants. The same products used for new builds are well suited to support a robust training program and to ensure a well-developed replacement workforce.
How does L3 MAPPS support post-training performance assessment?
Operating crew or individual operator post-training performance assessment is mainly performed through examination and/or debriefing.
For examination, simulator examiners (typically instructors) prepare exam scenarios ahead of time using Orchid® Instructor Station’s Scenario Manager and validate the expected simulator response. Critical operator tasks are identified and closely looked at during exam performance in the full scope simulator. During the examination, the pre-developed automated scenario is executed and the operators follow plant procedures and take appropriate actions to monitor and control the simulated plant in response to malfunctions. Operators are observed by the examiners and monitored by Orchid® Instructor Station’s student evaluation feature throughout the scenario. A grade can be established automatically based on the completion of critical tasks and/or manually based on examiners’ observations.
For debriefing, L3 MAPPS offers Orchid® Multimedia Manager, which allows digital video and audio recording of a training or exam session. After the scenario is completed, the instructors or examiners can debrief either the entire crew or specific individuals. The debriefing can take place in the simulator itself or in an adjacent debriefing room, where the simulation can be replayed using Orchid® Instructor Station. The debriefing starts from a specific point of interest chosen by the instructor or examiner in order to show the operators what they did well and what they could improve. With the use of video and audio playback synchronised with the plant simulation, debriefing becomes a very effective technique for the operators to understand plant management expectations.
Safety is still front of mind for the public and the plant. How does L3 MAPPS' expertise deal with extreme situations?
L3 MAPPS prides itself on the high-quality and accurate simulators it delivers to ensure that the training received in the full scope simulator is indistinguishable from the real plant experience. Simulators are developed using the plant reference unit design documentation (such as drawings and technical manuals) as well as plant data to validate the simulator response.
Computing power is inexpensive and abundant and allows us to make very realistic, extensive plant simulations. We can include every pump, pipe, microprocessor and wire in our simulations. L3 MAPPS’ full scope simulators are equipped with a complete reproduction of the plant control room environment including panels, consoles, DCS Human Machine Interface (HMI), control room sounds, etc. and detailed software models representing the plant systems. These simulators allow for operator (and other plant personnel) training on normal (e.g. plant start-up/shutdown), abnormal (e.g. loss of power) and emergency conditions (e.g. loss of coolant). An effective training program coupled with L3 MAPPS’ simulators has yielded highly proficient operators for decades.
Furthermore, L3 MAPPS led the industry by introducing severe accident simulation integrated into one of its operator training simulators (Krško in Slovenia) back in 2000—way before the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident. In recent years, L3 MAPPS has seen an increased demand for integrated severe accident simulation. L3 MAPPS recently delivered severe accident simulation for projects in China, Japan, Slovenia and the USA and has ongoing projects in Finland, South Korea and the USA.
As the demand on power production increases, and plants look for greater efficiency in operation, tell us about the role simulation has to offer.
L3 MAPPS’ training solutions are effective tools to provide operators the skills and knowledge required to prevent (or mitigate) unplanned plant shutdowns. Our simulators are used to improve crew performance and human performance, ultimately reducing errors. They also support the validation of plant modifications prior to their installation in the plant. Plant modifications can easily be implemented and tested in the simulator first to ensure the engineering design is correct, corresponding procedures are updated and operators are trained on the changes. This good industry practice minimises startup delays and unplanned shutdowns due to design issues and/or operator errors. All these practices result in medium- to long-term cost savings to the plant operators. The investment made early in a high-fidelity operator training and/or an engineering simulator outweighs the potential costs incurred due to human errors or plant modification engineering errors.
Tell us about some of the latest developments in your training solutions.
Part of the reason that we have a solid leadership position in the business is our focused commitment to innovation. L3 MAPPS continuously invests in research and development to enhance its products and to introduce new products—always aimed at addressing our customers’ challenges. Here are a few examples of recent investments:
- Learning Technologies (Learning Modules, System Knowledge Modules and Learning Simulators) to modernise the learning methods used in the industry
- New version of Orchid® Instructor Station with the Windows 10 look-and-feel, supporting touch gestures (flicking, swiping, etc.) to control/monitor the simulator using tablet PCs
- Revamped Orchid® Multimedia Manager for more efficient scenario debriefing fully synchronised with Orchid® Instructor Station
- Enhancements to our severe accident simulation technical solution and 3-D visualisation
- Rigorous configuration control and management features in Orchid® Modeling Environment for simulator-to-plant consistency
- Creation of a graphical Scenario Manager for Orchid® Instructor Station with student evaluation capabilities.
As I said, however, this deliberate focus on technology is only a part of the company’s success. The other big contributors are a well-developed, talented and stable workforce and our intelligent customers—who play a big role in shaping the direction of our technology.
Finally, how do you measure success?
We are always looking for certain things to happen as we move forward. Are we advancing the technology and our business processes? Are we making the user experience better? Are we making sure that we are not compromising quality? Are we executing our projects on time and on budget? Are our customers happy with our products and services? I am pleased to report that our scorecard on all of these considerations is in good shape.