Corporate Risk Associates awarded £70,000 R&D grant for nuclear power plant research

A human factors, safety and risk consultancy that provides services to safety critical industries has been awarded an R&D grant worth almost £70,000 which will see the company make a significant contribution towards improving the safety and operations of civil nuclear power plants.

Thanks to the grant plus some internal funding, UK-based Corporate Risk Associates (CRA) will now be conducting a comprehensive research project designed to significantly enhance the industry’s understanding of potential system failures in nuclear power plants, aiding both plant safety and the uninterrupted supply of electricity.

The grant has been awarded by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency which works with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive the science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy. The research will be completed throughout the course of this year.

Speaking about the grant, Jasbir Sidhu (CEO and founder of CRA) said: “We’re delighted to have been awarded this grant which will see CRA develop a process to generate realistic reliability estimates of SMART Control and Instrumentation (SC&I) in order to increase the safety levels within nuclear power plants.”

SC&I are intelligent control devices that employ programmable electronic components to collect and process data to enhance performance.

According to Singh, the industry uses assessments of the reliability of engineered systems to understand safety margins. The reliability of SC&I technology is difficult to substantiate due to the inclusion of software, and this leads to an assumption that it performs much worse than is indicated by operational experience.

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Safety Integrity Levels

“Current methods adopted in the industry involve using high confidence values based on Safety Integrity Levels (SILs), as stipulated in standards such as IEC 61508/IEC 61513,” added Singh. “We firmly believe this current method doesn’t give a good indication of the ‘true’ reliability, as SIL figures are considered to be highly conservative. As such, we’re extremely passionate about this project and developing a process that can ensure future decisions are based on realistic reliability estimates.”

Singh went on to state: “It’s great that we’ve received this grant from Innovate UK in recognition of the significant impact this project will have on the nuclear, process, transportation and other high hazard industries where safety is, of course, of paramount importance. Looking ahead, this research will have a major impact on the understanding of risks from emerging and growing fields, such as Data Centres.”

The project will be led by experts at CRA, including the company’s principal consultant Ashraf El-Shanawany and consultants Francesca Brandford-Adams and Garth Rowlands, who’ll be researching the approach of Structured Expert Judgement.

Established in 2000, CRA boasts a team of 40 technical consultants. The company prides itself on managing safety, reliability and risk across the nuclear, rail, defence and process industries, where delivering a robust risk analysis is part of the licensing processes.

The company has recently been awarded work with major organisations, including the Office of Nuclear Regulation, EDF Energy and Babcock International.

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