FirmSys, a domestically-developed high-safety nuclear power plant control system (DCS), was marked for its first application in the Yangjiang Nuclear Power Plant Unit 5, built by China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN), in Guangdong province on May 22.
A plaque is unveiled for the first application of FirmSys, China’s first nuclear safety distributed control system (DCS) platform with independent intellectual property rights, at Yangjiang Nuclear Power Plant in Guangdong province on May 22.
Known as the central nervous system of nuclear power plants, FirmSys plays an important role in ensuring their safety and stability.
However, only a handful of developed countries have mastered the technology of the nuclear-grade DCS platform, which is critical in safe shutdown and accident mitigation for reactors. China had been relying on imports of the technology for a long time.
With strong support from the National Energy Administration, the National Nuclear Safety Administration and other departments, China Techenergy Co (CTEC), a subsidiary of CGN, successfully developed FirmSys as China's first nuclear-grade DCS platform with independent intellectual property rights in October 2010.
Jiang Guojin, general manager of CTEC, said that as the core technology of such systems is one of the key components of a nuclear power station, it is impossible for foreign enterprises to transfer it. China must carry out original innovation.
In order to ensure system security, FirmSys adopts an independently designed operating system and communication network. The research and development teams wrote nearly one million lines of software code independently and conquered such challenges as the development of nuclear-grade operating systems and software code generation technologies.
Jiang added that because all software codes, especially the operating systems and communication networks, are completely indigenous, and all hardware products are purchased independently, it allows systems to be independently integrated and tested and information security products with in-depth multi-layer defenses to be adopted. Thus FirmSys can not only effectively prevent external attacks from the internet, but also can ensure that the control system is completely in domestic hands.
In addition to finishing design and manufacturing according to nuclear power engineering application requirements, CTEC also spent huge time and money completing a variety of complex and demanding hardware qualification tests and software verifications and validations to ensure the technology’s successful application.
In September 2013, CTEC and CGN signed the DCS procurement contract for Yangjiang NPP Unit 5.
CTEC delivered the nuclear-grade DCS equipment to Yangjiang Nuclear Power Co in November 2016, limiting the actual supply cycle of the project to 26 months.
CTEC spent two years and 100 million yuan ($15 million) to build a prototype, and selected the most stringent conditions for various identification tests to verify the correctness of the engineering design scheme, the integrity of platform functions and the reliability of product performance.
"China Techenergy Co has made incredible efforts to achieve the success of the first application of FirmSys. We attached great importance to this project. We intervened early in the testing phase and worked together with their test team for nearly a year," said Jiang Dajin, general manager of Yangjiang Nuclear Power Co.
A staff member monitors the FirmSys nuclear control system at Yangjiang NPP in Guangdong province.
According to Jiang Dajin, CTEC has sent more than 20 technicians and engineers to the site since 2017. FirmSys has successfully passed many tests such as a cold test, a hot test and fuel loading, providing an important guarantee for the realization of several of Unit 5’s major engineering milestones.
"Next up, we will cooperate with Yangjiang NPP to carry out all tests after the critical condition of Unit 5 is reached and will spare no effort to support the unit’s business goals this year. At that point, the industrialized application of China-developed nuclear-grade DCS will truly be achieved. Yangjiang NPP Unit 5 will also be marked as China's first gigawatt-level nuclear power unit that adopts home-developed DCS equipment," said Jiang Guojin.
In addition to Units 5 and 6 of Yangjiang NPP, FirmSys is also involved in the transformation of the instrument control system of several domestic units already in service.
Meanwhile, it will be applied in the Shidao Bay high temperature gas cooled reactor and nuclear power stations at Hongyanhe, Tianwan and Fangchenggang. It can save nearly 3 billion yuan for China's nuclear power project construction.
DCS has always been a critical path for nuclear power projects. The project period is difficult to control. If a gigawatt-level nuclear power unit is one day behind schedule for operation, the loss will be as high as nearly 10 million yuan.
Jiang Guojin stated that the nuclear DCS project undertaken by CTEC has never been delayed and is capable of providing full-life-cycle maintenance and service support for China's NPPs. With the implementation of FirmSys, the indirect economic benefits brought to nuclear power owners through guaranteed construction periods and operational safety are also considerable.
Active participation in going-global
In addition to supporting the operation and construction of domestic NPPs, CTEC also actively responds to the national Belt and Road Initiative and promotes the "going global" strategy.
This year, CTEC completed the transformation of a nuclear reactor in Algeria based on FirmSys. The equipment is now in the on-site commissioning stage.
Meanwhile, HPR1000, China's third-generation nuclear power technology, is currently under Generic Design Assessment (GDA) reviewed by the British nuclear regulator.
CTEC is actively cooperating with the UK’s N Office for Nuclear Regulation and UK Environment Agency to implement GDA. The goal is to apply FirmSys to the British nuclear power project invested by CGN and eventually go to the world with HPR1000.
In the 40 years of reform and opening-up, taking advantage of the development of nuclear power in China, CTEC has paved a path of self-improvement in nuclear power equipment manufacturing through its own innovation, and has developed FirmSys into a new business card for China.
Jiang Guojin noted that in the next step, FirmSys will target more domestic and international nuclear power projects and other applications with high reliability requirements.
Yangjiang NPP Unit 5 is the first gigawatt-level nuclear power project in China to adopt the FirmSys nuclear control system.