Key Takeaways:

  1. $1.3 trillion of value can be captured in electricity value chain (energy sector alone) from 2016 to 2025 globally by IOT (GE)
  2. Additional, $2 trillion in societal benefits such reduction of carbon emissions, new job creation, and value creation for consumers in the same period (GE)
  3. IOT economical impact will be between $3.9 trillion to 11.1 trillion per year from 2025 (Mckinsey Global Institute)
  4. The overall saving from the implementation of digitalization to the power sector will be in order of $80 billion per year over 2016-2040 (IAE)
  5. The president of CNNC officially released “central nerve”. The digital control system (DCS) which is the key to the safe operation and maintenance of NPPs.

Digitalization is the use of technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities, according to Gartner’s IT glossary. Digitalization have been implemented in many industries for years; however, the energy sector and especially nuclear didn’t get the full extent of digitalization yet. The only historical implementation in the energy industry was through smart meters and smart thermostats. Digitalization could be divided into 4 segments IOT (Internet of Things), IIOT (industrial Internet of Things), Industry 4.0, AR (Augmented Reality).


IOT is interconnected devices which can collect and share data using sensors such as smart home (home appliances), smart cars, smart cities and so on. The IOT deals with commercial sector While IIOT is more for industrial sector connecting machines to other machines and incorporating data into the system to be able to function autonomously and take an action based on the data received. The smart-factory will be able to gather and analyze data in real time among other features. Industry 4.0 is a term which portray the 4th industrial revolution which will be (is) conveyed by IIOT.


Potential of IOT & IIOT:

IOT and IIOT are set to have a huge impact on us in the next decade and could lead to dramatic changes. GE predicts that $1.3 trillion of value can be captured in electricity value chain (energy sector alone) from 2016 to 2025 globally by IOT. In addition to $2 trillion in societal benefits such reduction of carbon emissions, new job creation, and value creation for consumers. This trend is subject to increase and benefits as well, as the IOT will be implemented in more countries and businesses in the future. Moreover, Mckinsey Global Institute forecast a total economic impact of $3.9 trillion to 11.1 trillion per year from 2025.With this in mind, Nuclear industry should start thinking and implementing IIOT in power plants. Some have already started the process as I will discuss more in details in the upcoming paragraph but still nuclear (energy in general) is lagging behind other industries.

IOT Maturity Model:


IOT is being implemented in business at different stages, some as the traditional energy sector are using only to monitor and to some extent control via their smart meters and thermostats. However, there is much more use to IOT beginning with optimization. Optimization can be achieved through data analytics which allow the system to automatically enhance the performance, as it will be able to take preventive action. This should reduce unnecessary false positives by an average of 25%. Then, the next stage is autonomy where the human interaction with the machines isn’t necessary, the machines could take adequate actions independently which enables better reactivity and failures prediction. Lastly, the final stage of maturity is system autonomy where the machines can not only work independently but also interact between each other to respond and enhance operations within the factory.

IIOT in the Power Sector:

According to IEA the overall saving from the implementation of digitalization to the power sector will be in order of $80 billion per year over 2016-2040, or about 5% of total annual power generation cost. Thanks to improved planning and predictive maintenance among other features which will reduce operations and maintenance costs, decrease downtime and outages; and in the meantime, increase efficiency and extended operational lifetime of the powerplants. Powerplants operators can improve fleet management through digital transformation. It can be achieved via four levels of transformation: aftermarket services, business model, operations, and automation.

Key Players:

Different key global players are already developing and operating technologies which are to be implemented in the energy. The interest is growing rapidly for digitalization related applications on the energy sector and nuclear is no exception. Big companies are understanding the potential for the industry and working to develop solutions with the collaboration of nuclear operators. Below some of the key players, we can divide them on two categories IIOT and AR/Robotics providers.


Power Plants already implementing digitalization:

Ge and Exelon are collaborating in the implementation of some of their digitalization tools in the Calvert Cliffs Power Plant, USA. They’ve developed software such as Predix which is their flagship product, Predix consist of gathering data from the nuclear power plant and transforms it into a “digital twin” of assets. This digital twin enhances performance of the assets by running predictive analytics and make smart decisions for maintenance resources. In accordance with Predix, “Watchtower” obtains real-time operational status of plant Equipment while receiving notifications of potential issues. Also, “Lighthouse” predicts the risk if an adverse event based on historical data, it’s able to predict three to four months ahead the risk, why, and how to prevent it. Finally, they are using “Digital Plant Viewer” which is an interactive map with 360° views of every level of the plant, showing radiation levels in an active view. It’s allows every employee at the power plant to have access from his phone or tablet to real time assessment to the situation in the plant. Those innovative software reduce costs related to revenue losses resulting from outage, reduce time spent on maintenance, improve decision making, and improve safety by decreasing the risk of exposure to radiation.

Another successful example would be the implementation of VR tools in Forsmark nuclear power plant in Sweden. This technology is provided by Fortum which is a Finnish utility company developing AR technologies to optimize the productivity of NPPs. The VR tools intend to improve the training of employees by allowing them to have a realistic simulation of problems that may occur such as fire in the control room, also they can train together with employees in different geographic areas. In addition, VR tools allowed workers to inspect the power plant even the hardest to reach spots such as the one in the water pool (where visibility is diminished) in a very clear manner and could take the decision accordingly about the component to replace. This technology permits the employees to perform quickly and more efficiently in the facilities and reduce their burden, also reduces outage which obviously decrease costs.

Power Plants that are already starting to think about it in Asia:

Tianwan nuclear power station in China started adopting digitalization through their agreement with “Ultrapower” which will deploy its communications system based on IOT. Ultrapwer will offers wireless network through the NPP’s units five and six. The two reactors are scheduled to commence operating respectively in December 2020 and October 2021. Ultrapower’s Nu-WIFI system meets electromagnetic safety and data security while withstanding high level of radiation. According to James Boynton“Nu-WiFi system was customized for the project and supports mobile communication, precise positioning, IOT access and broadband data transmission to provide high-quality communications during the construction, operation and maintenance of the plant, the system will include hardware, software and ancillary equipment.”

This month, the President of the China National Nuclear Corporation and deputy secretary of the party group officially released China’s first military-civilian integration security-grade DCS platform (Dragon Scale System). The digital control system (DCS) is the key to the safe operation and maintenance of nuclear power plants and is called the “central nerve” of nuclear power plants.

Opportunities in Asia: 

Currently Asia is leading the way for New nuclear power plants under-construction with China being the leader. China has 45 operating reactors placing it as the third country with most reactors, and with it ambitious program of building new NPPs, it’s expected to overtake USA as the biggest market for civil nuclear in the world in the next decades. China has 13 reactors under-construction and a combined 179 new addition ( 43 planned and 136 proposed). India is boosting its civil nuclear program as well, they already 22 operating reactors, 7 under-construction, 14 planned and 28 proposed. Also, many Asian countries are considering nuclear in the near future such as ASEAN countries.

Many companies are starting to specialize in IIOT for nuclear Power plants in Asia such as “Datang” which are extending their IOT nuclear power field by dynamic integration of wireless communication system with IPRs and sensor. Their system cover Monitoring, controlling, management, and communication within NPPs. To summarize, those examples of IIOT adoption in Asia is a sign of a great development of digitalization in Asia in the near future, however, they are still room for progress to attain the IIOT integration of western NPPs mentioned above. In other words, there is room for development and progress in Asia and opportunities are there to modernize the Asian fleets either to implement digitalization to already existing plants or to new builds with region being the most dynamic at constructing new NPPs in the world.

Challenges for IIOT Implementation:

Some challenges are standing in the way of implementing digitalization in general and IIOT specifically. Cybersecurity is the main threat with the increase of connectivity the risk augment, and this situation would attract cyber terrorists which could sabotages the nuclear power plants and create an atomic disaster with big scale impact. The second challenge is the high investment cost and the non-immediate profitability that make investors somehow reluctant. Finally, last but not least, the fast-technological changes pace (around 4-5 years) compared to the slow pace of the nuclear industry.

In conclusion, some obstacles are standing in the way of implementing digitalization in Asia and around the world. However, the potential is huge and gain for that implementation is far beyond those challenges; as a consequence, I see digitalization invading the nuclear industry in the next decades.

By |2019-07-17T14:46:03+08:00July 17th, 2019|nuclear-industry|0 Comments