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Proceedings of the 5 World Congress on intelligent Control

and Automation. June 15-19,2004, Hangzhou. P.R. China

Wireless Sensor Networks Solutions for
Real Time Monitoring of Nuclear Power Plant*
Ruizhong Lin, Zhi Wang and Youxian Sun
National Laboratoty oflndustrial Control Technology, Institute of Modern Control Engineering
Zhejiang Chiversify
Zheda Road 38#, Hangzhou, 310027, China
(rzlin, wangzhi, yxsun}
Abstraer - Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) is a novel
technology in acquiring and processing information and has been
an active research area in recent years. This paper presents the
current development of WSNs applications and the solutions for
real time monitoring of nuclear power plant. Firstly, the
architecture of WSN is provided as well as the component
structure of the sensor node. Then, the abundant applications of
WSN are outlined in many areas such as military, environmental,
healthy, home, commercial, and the industrial. Particularly, the
WSN solutions for real time monitoring of nuclear power plant
(NPP) are explored in detail. Finally, open research issues for the
practice of WSN are discussed.
Index Terms - Wireless Sensor Networks, Real Time
Monitoring of Nuclear Power Plant, Low-power design.
The main goal of WSN is to perform distributed sensing
tasks especially for applications such as environmental
monitoring, smart spaces, medical systems and etc. The
advances in MEMS technology, sensing technology and
wireless communications have enabled the development of
low-cost, low-power and multifunctional WSN. WSN are
made up of a large numbers of sensor nodes, which consist of
sensing, data processing and communicating components. The
sensor nodes, which are capable of wireless communication,
are randomly dispersed over the interest area, picking up the
signals by all kinds of sensors and the data acquiring unit,
processing and transmitting them to the central point. Though
the individual node has limited capabilities, WSN which
typically has hundreds to thousands of nodes are capable of
achieving a large task through the cooperation of these nodes.
Unlike a mobile ad hoc network (MANET), most nodes in
a WSN have to operate in noisy environments and require
higher density in order to achieve a better sensing resolution.
So, in a WSN, scalability is a crucial factor. Another
characteristic of WSN is that the node has limited resources,
for instance, limited processing capability, memory and
battery energy and etc. Thus the sensor node must use these
limited resources effectively and manage the energy to extend
the lifetime of the network as long as it can. And a WSN has
dynamic network topology which changes frequently as a
result of some nodes failures or moving in order to achieve a
sensing task. Other differences between WSN and MANET
are [I]: (1) the number of sensor nodes in a WSN is always
several orders of magnitude higher than in a MANET. (2)
Sensor nodes are generally stationary after deployment while
the nodes in a MANET are much more mobile. (3) Sensor
nodes are prone to failures. (4) Sensor nodes mainly use a
broadcast communication paradigm, whereas most MANETs
are based on point-to-point communications. ( 5 ) Sensor nodes
may not have global identification (ID).
Unlike cellular networks that deny service when too many
phones are active in a small area, the vision of mesh
networking is based on strength of node density, and the
interconnection of a WSN only grows stronger as nodes are
added. As long as there is sufficient density, a single network
of sensor nodes can grow to cover limitless area.
WSN is significantly different from traditional wireless
networks such as MANET, cellular networks, Bluetooth,
wireless local area network ( WLAN) and etc. In these
traditional networks, the tasks of organization, routing and
mobility management are used to optimize Quality of Service
(QoS) and heighten bandwidth efficiency [2]. These wireless
networks aim to provide excellent throughput and delay
characteristics under high mobile conditions. However energy
consumption takes up secondary importance as the batteries
can he replaced when it is necessary. On the contrary, WSN is
designed for unattended operation and how to save energy for
prolonging lifetime is of its primary importance. The traffic is
a statistical nature as compared with the multimedia rich data
in MANET and cellular networks. The WSN nodes do not
need to communicate directly with the nearest high-power
control tower or base station as other traditional wireless
devices do, but only with their local peers.
In a word, WSN forms a new kind of wireless networks
with a new set of characteristics and challenges.
This paper is to outline the different kinds of WSN
applications in several areas as well as state of the art and the
WSN solutions for real time monitoring of nuclear power
plant. Firstly, the architecture of WSN is provided, including
the structure of the sensor nodes. Then in section 111,
applications in military, environmental, healthy, home,
commercial, and industrial areas are mentioned in general. In
* Tbis work is supponed by ARFFC Grant #PRA S103-02 to Z. Wa g and NNSFC Grant #60304018 t o H. P. Dai.
0-78034273-0/04/$20.00 02004 IEEE
section IV, the WSN solutions for real time monitoring of
nuclear power plant (RTMNPP) are described and discussed
in detail. Open research issues for the practice of WSN are
concluded in the end.
Up to now, plenty of researches in WSN have been
conducted, and formed several main research platforms, such
as Motes (developed by UC Berkeley), Rockwell Wireless
Integrated Network Sensors (WINS, developed by UCLA, an
older and larger system and which is not widely used), Smart
Dust (developed by DARPA and UC Berkeley, millimeter-
scale autonomous sensor nodes suspended in air for
monitoring and optical transmission technology is used for
communication) and PC-104 based node. Among them, the
Mote platform, which contains Atmel CPU and RF transciever
chip based sensor nodes and operating system -- TinyOS, is
the most popular and adopted by more than 100 research
institutions all over the world [3].
The architecture of WSN commonly used by most of the
research platforms including the Mote is shown in Fig. 1. The
sensor nodes randomly dispersed in the monitoring area by the
aircrafts spreading, manually deploying or rockets ejecting,
constitute a network through self-organization method. Each of
these nodes has the capability of collecting data and routes'
data back to the base stations and the base stations send the
information to the center through Intemet. 'The end users can
browse and process data through lntemet from the center. The
components of sensor nodes are often various and application
dependent, however a typical sensor node is made up of four
basic parts as shown in Fig.2: a data acquiring unit, a
processing unit; a-data transceiver unit and a power unit. They
may also have additional application dependent components
such as a location finding system, a mobilizer or a power
generator. While in Fig. I , the components of a sensor node are
..-. ... . . . ..
'L.. wireless channe14' Packet Path
Fig.1 the Layered Architecture of WSN
Fig2 Coinpanenis af a node in Wifeless Sensor Networks
combined with'the comtnunication stack including application
layer, transport layer, network' layer, data link layer, and
physical layer. Although many protocols have been developed
to meet the communication of WSN, the key
challenges in the communication architecture remain to
provide the requirements in WSN for corresponding services
while minimizing the product cost.and energy consumption.
Data acquiring unit is usually composed of two subunits: a
sensor and an analog to digital converter (ADC). The selection
of sensors lies on the interesting objects. The analog signals of
observed phenomenon produced by the sensors are converted
into digital signals by the ADC, and then sent'to the processing
unit. The processing unit, which is generally associated with a
small storage sub-unit or sometimes with an application sub-
unit, manages the procedures that make the sensor node
collaborate with the other nodes to carry out the assigned
sensing tasks. It may process the digital data, judge if sends
them or not and send the data to another near node. The
transceiver unit connects the sensor node to the wireless sensor
network. It can be a radio frequency transceiver, a Bluetooth
module, or an infrared communication unit. One of the most
important components of a sensor node is the power unit.
Power unit may be supported by a power scavenging unit such
as solar cells. The power unit may include a power
management sub-unit that helps the processor monitor and
manage the energy consumption. As the lifetime of a WSN is
so important, a management of power that can effectively
protract the lifetime available is obligatory. Most WSN routing
techniques and sensing tasks require the knowledge of location
with high accuracy. So it is common that a sensor node has a
location finding system. The location finding system can be a
chip which communicates with the Global Position System
(GPS) in a satellite and gets the' location information. A
mobilizer may sometimes be needed for moving sensor nodes
when it is necessary to carry out the assigned task. There are
also other subunits, which are application dependent [I].
An operating system (OS) is needed for the sensor node's
managing the power, scheduling the services, sensing a task,
tracking a target, and communicating with the neighboring
nodes. The embedded OS, e.g. real time Linux (RT-Linux),
uC-OS, can be adopted, yet the TinyOS can be a better choice.
TinyOS is a power-efficient. component-based, event-driven
embedded operating system framework that starts at a few
hundreds bytes for the scheduler and grows to complete
network applications in a few kilobytes. TinyOS provides a
framework for concurrency and modularity through split-phase
non-blocking execution. TinyOS supports the wireless
networking well and the top-level packet abstraction in
TinyOS is an Active Message. [4] Fig. 3 shows the component
model of TinyOS. TinyOS is also an open source code OS
written in nesC, a programming language similar to C
language, and everyone can meliorate it [3].
""PI i ' r l l ' , r
bY tf
Fie.3 the Cammnent Model of TinvOS
WSN may consist of many different types of sensors such
as seismic, low sampling rate magnetic, thermal, visual,
infrared, acoustic and radar, which are able to monitor a wide
variety of ambient conditions that include the following [SI:
temperature, humidity, vehicular movement, lightning
condition, pressure, soil makeup, noise levels, the presence or
absence of certain kinds of objects, mechanical stress levels on
attached objects, and the current characteristics such as speed,
direction, and size of an object.
WSN can be used for continuous sensing, event detection,
event ID, location sensing, and local control of actuators. The
concepts of micro-sensing and wireless connection of the
nodes in WSN promise many new application areas. And the
applications of WSN can be categorized into many fields such
as military, environmental, healthy, home, commercial. and
industrial areas. We summarized some applications in each
area in the following subsections.
A. -Mi/ifarl. Applications
WSN can be an integral part of military Command,
Control, Communications, Computing, Intelligence,
Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Targeting (C4ISRT)
systems and is competent for monitoring friendly forces,
equipment and ammunition, battlefield surveillance,
reconnaissance of opposing forces and terrain, targeting, battle
damage assessment, nuclear, biological and chemical (BGC)
attack detection and reconnaissance, and other tasks. The rapid
deployment, self-organization and fault diagnosis
characteristics of WSN make it a very promising sensing
technique for these military applications. For example, in
chemical and biological warfare, being close to ground zero is
important for timely and accurate detection of the agents.
WSN deployed in the friendly region and used as a chemical
or biological warning system can provide the friendly forces
with critical reaction time, which drops casualties drastically.
We can also use WSN for detailed reconnaissance as soon as
an NBC attach is detected. For instance, we can make a
nuclear reconnaissance without exposing a recce team to
nuclear radiation.
B. Environmental ,Applications
Environmental applications include tracking the
movements of birds, small animals and insects; monitoring
environmental conditions that affect crops and livestock;
irrigation; macroinstruments for large-scale Earth monitoring
aiid planetary exploration; chemical/biological detection:
precision agriculture; biological, Earth, and environmental
monitoring in marine, soil and atmospheric contexts; forest tire
detection; flood detection and etc. [6]. In forest tire detection,
since millions of sensor nodes can be strategically, randomly,
and densely deployed in a forest, integrated using RFioptical
systems, sensor nodes can relay the exact origin of the tire to
the end users before the fire is spread uncontrollable.
C. Healthy Applications
WSN can provide integrated patient monitoring;
diagnostics; drug administration in hospitals; monitoring the
movements and internal process of infection; tele-monitoring
of human physiological data and etc. [SI. If sensor nodes can
be attached to medications, the probability of getting and
prescribing wrong medications to patients will be minimized,
as patients will have sensor nodes that identify their allergies
and required medications.
D. Home Applicatiuns
In home applications, smart sensor nodes and actuators can
be bwied in vacuum cleaners, micro-wave ovens, refrigerators
and DVDs as technology advances [ 7] . These sensor nodes
inside the domestic devices can interact with each other and
communicate with the external network via the Internet. WSN
allow and users to manage home devices locally or remotely
more easily.
E. Commercial Applicarions
Some of the Commercial applications are. monitoring
material fatigue; building virtual keyboards; monitoring
product quality; environmental control in buildings; robot
control; interactive toys; interactive museums; monitoring
disaster area; transportation; vehicle tracking and detection
and so on.
F. Industrial Applicatiom
Industrial applications include robot control and guidance
in automatic manufacturing environments; industrial process
control and automation; smart structure with sensor nodes
embedded inside: machine diagnosis; factory instrumentation;
local control of actuators; instrumentation of semiconductor
processing chambers; monitoring of rotating machine;
monitoring of wind tunnels and anechoic chambers and etc.
To meet the requirements of these potential applications,
the challenges in designing WSN can be concluded as follows
[8]: paradigm sh$; resource constraints; unpredictability;
high densiry/scale; real time; securiy. Among them, the
resource constraint is the most important one. Many new
solutions are needed because of the severe resource
limitations. The main resources in short supply include power,
CPU execution speed. memory, and communication
bandwidth. Since the WSN is likely to contain a very large
number of nodes, cost is also a significant problem. Novel
solutions are needed for solving specific problems as well as
dealing with tradeoffs. For example, better power management
for a node is required. This may involve putting a node or
various components on that node to sleep. In addition, it is
necessary to decide when to transmit with greater power so
that fewer hops are required to reach the destination or when it
is better to transmit at low power and traverse more hops. If a
node is having trouble to get its message received properly, it
may be able to physically move, send at higher power, or send
at a different frequency. Many of the new resource allocation
and management problems which are exhibited in WSN have
this flavor of a large number of potential actions to take. How
to make this decision and how to understand the overall quality
of the resource decisions for the entire WSN are key
In this section, we explored the WSN based solutions for
Real Time Nuclear Power Plant Monitoring
real time monitoring of nuclear power plant (RTMNPP).
Nuclear technology has been applied in industry for many
years, and one of the most important usages is nuclear power
plants (NPP). There are many NPP over the world since the
power of nuclear is huge and it will not contaminate the
environment. However, safety must be considered as the most
important issue in developing NPP for the potential release of
radioactive materials. Other considerations, e.g., temperature
of the reactor, vibration of the reactor, noise of the
environment, radiation, and other components status must be
monitored so as to maintain the equipments before they fails,
or to take actions to prevent accidents. Therefore, a real time
monitoring and control system is needed for ensuring the
safety ofNNP 191.
On the other hand, some nuclear power plant control room
systems are controlled by human operators. These operators
are one of the several factors that can either degrade or
improve power plant operations. The operator is an active
element of an overall plant control system. One possible
method to avoid misoperations is to provide better human
interfaces [ I O] . And the other way is to monitor the operations
through certain sensors.
The statuses of the equipments in the field of the NPP are
sent to the control center to analyze and judge whether there
are faults, where they are and how to solve them. For example,
the vibration, noise and temperature of a rolling machine can
be detected and demodulated to diagnose the fault that it has or
will have. Thus a subsystem with signal processing and
analyzing is needed for diagnosing the faults. And an expert
system must be used to support the decision. A database
system is also needed to manage the data, event, and status of
theNPP [ I l l .
Radiation monitoring in NPP is of great pith and moment.
As well known, radiation monitoring systems still exists
several challenges [ 121. Synthesize the above requirements
and others, the real time monitoring and control system in a
NPP is a systematic engineering and combines several
B. WSN Solution in Real Time Nuclear Power Plant
WSN, as mentioned above, can provide plenty of sensing
and monitoring services, so it can be used in the real time
monitoring of nuclear power plants. Fig. 4 shows the solutions
for RTMNPP. Sensor node may consist of the components
Environment Other Comoonents
(a) Architecture of WSN for RTMNPP
- 1 I - 1 - 1
I base I I System I I Soft 1
(b) Software blocks for RTMNPP
Fig.4 WSN solutions far RTMNPP
shown in Fig.2, and the sensor unit can he used to monitor the
temperature, noise, vibration, humidity, radiation, and etc.
Some of the sensor nodes may have actuators or connect to
some actuators, so that they can make a decision and react
themselves to some emergencies. The architecture of WSN for
RTMNPP is shown in Fig. 4(a). The deployed sensor nodes
organize many sub-nets, execute the commands from the
control center, sense and monitor the NPP, transmit the
information to control center. One subnet is used to monitor
the nuclear reactor, one to monitor the environment, one to
monitor the operation and others are used to monitor other
components in the NPP. The center makes further processing
of the data, storages in database and provides client browsing
through local area network (LAN) or wireless local area
network (WLAN). When an emergency is detected by the
sensor nodes, the alarm information is sent to the center and
the monitor in the center rings hells backward, thus the relative
action can be taken in time, and the emergency can he cleared
before they become uncontrollable.
Fig. 4(h) shows the software blocks for RTMNPP. The
Operating System (OS) core (e.g. TinyOS by UC Berkeley)
manages and executes the tasks including sensing, multi-hop
routing, power management, time synchronization, service
scheduling, watch dog timing and locating (for the nodes with
actuators). The control center server provides data collecting
and processing services, components diagnosis and decisions
making with the support of the expert system. It also gives the
commands, analyzes the data, monitors the condition, reacts to
the emergency and provides data hrowsing and operating for
the client.
In this way, the status of nuclear power plant can he
monitored effectively by the WSN along with other systems.
The WSN creates many new and exciting application areas
for remote sensing and monitoring. In the future, the wide
range of application areas will make WSN an integral part of
our lives. However, realization of WSN need to satisfy the
constraints by its inherent factors such as fault tolerance,
scalability, cost, hardware, topology change, environment and
power consumption. Since these constraints are highly
stringent and specific for WSN, new wireless ad hoc
networking techniques are required. Many researchers are
engaged in developing the technologies needed for different
layers of the WSN protocol stack including communication
protocols (especially Medium Access Control Protocols [ 13]),
hardware and software development. Along with the current
research in WSN, we can foresee more developments in
practice of WSN in the near future.
Main acronym
WSN: wireless sensor networks
NNP: nuclear power plant
MANET mobile adhoc network
WLAN: wireless local areanetwork
RTMNPP: real timemonitoring of nuclear power plant
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