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MAC0010.1177/0020294015572666Human Factors in Control Room ModernizationHuman Factors in Control Room Modernization

Themed Paper

Human Factors in Control

Measurement and Control
2015, Vol. 48(3) 92­–96
© The Institute of Measurement

Room Modernisation
and Control 2015
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/0020294015572666

Chiuhsiang Joe Lin

Department of Industrial Management, National Taiwan University of Science and Technology,
Taipei, Taiwan
Tsung-Ling Hsieh
Department of Industrial Management, National Taiwan University of Science and Technology,
Taipei, Taiwan
Chih-Wei Yang
Institute of Nuclear Energy Research, Lungtan, Taiwan

In view of the benefits of human factors engineering for nuclear power plants, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission
published a series of Nuclear Regulatory documents to describe the systematic methodologies and processes of
human factors engineering on functional requirements analysis and function allocation, task analysis, human–system
interface design, training program development, and so forth of the main control room of the nuclear power plant. The
purpose of this paper is to introduce the application of human factors engineering to evaluate the usability and safety
of the hybrid human–system interfaces developed for the conventional main control room during the process of mod-
ernisation. A comprehensive checklist with human factors guidelines was adopted to evaluate the usability of the
hybrid human–system interfaces. Expert interview was adopted to collect data on task performance, workload, situa-
tion awareness, communication, and coordination based on operators’ experiences. The results provide guidance
and a technical basis that should help plant staff with planning changes to the human–system interfaces of main con-
trol rooms that address issues that arise during control room modernisation.

I. Introduction usability of HSIs is essential and program incorporates HFE practices and
critical.2–4 guidelines as described within the HFE
The nuclear power plant (NPP) is In view of the benefits of HFE for NPPs, program. The staff of the plant can refer to
required to provide low-cost and stable the Nuclear Regulatory Commission NUREG-0711 to draw up plans with
electricity for the population under the tasked with protecting public health and comprehensive dimensions and strict
premise of “safety first” due to the safety related to nuclear energy published procedures for HFE evaluation. Moreover,
catastrophic damage that could be a series of Nuclear Regulatory (NUREG) NUREG-07006 is focused on providing the
caused by accidents. However, the documents to describe the systematic details of HFE guidelines necessary to
operators in the main control room methodologies and processes of HFE on perform HSI evaluations. The HFE
(MCR) of a NPP are required to deal functional requirements analysis and guidelines are organized into four basic
with complex tasks, such as monitoring function allocation, task analysis, HSI parts, which are divided into sections. The
and manipulating system information, design, training program development, first part of the guidelines concerns the
which can lead to a high workload for and so forth of the MCR in the NPP. For basic HSI elements, such as displays,
operators.1 For optimization of the instance, NUREG-07115 is provided for user-interface interactions and
workload to reduce the human error of review of the HFE programs of applicants management, and controls. The second
operators, in addition to the technical for construction permits, operating part of the guidelines covers alarm
development of the digital human– licenses, standard design certifications, systems, group-view display systems, soft
system interfaces (HSIs) in the MCR of a combined operating licenses, and license control systems, computer-based
NPP, the application of human factors amendments. The purpose of these procedure systems, computerized
engineering (HFE) to confirm the reviews is to verify that the applicant’s HFE operator support systems, and

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according to the features or characteristics

Figure 1.  The MCR of a conventional nuclear power plant
for targeting HSIs for evaluation.7
Accordingly, even though the conditions of
the equipment, system, and HSIs in the
MCR would be obviously distinct in
different life cycle stages of NPPs or
manufacturers, the staff of a plant still can
refer to these documents to evaluate these
factors based on HFE aspects.
Modernisation is a transition stage, during
which the equipment and system are
upgraded in the MCR of a conventional
NPP. Formerly, the MCR of a conventional
NPP (Figure 1) was equipped with cabinets
for analog HSIs, such as plant parameter
gauges, indicators, knobs, levers, and alarm
tiles. The operators needed to walk along
the cabinets to take readings of the system
information and adjust the controllers.
Today, most of the conventional NPPs still
operate with a substantial amount of the
original analog instrumentation, control
systems, and equipment, even though they
MCR: main control room. are approaching their life expectancies.
However, the steadily deteriorating
Figure 2.  Cabinet of the MCR with a hybrid HSI availability of replacement components and
the infrastructure of manufacturers that
sustain analog technology have increased
operation and maintenance costs. In
addition, the possibilities for adding new
useful capabilities to the NPP systems and
HSIs are restricted by outdated technology.
Thus, modernising components of the
original instrumentation, control system, and
equipment to digital types is a current
feasible approach that can address
obsolescence and the lack of spare parts,
improve plant performance and HSI
functionality, and enhance operator
performance and reliability throughout the
A hybrid HSI is a specific feature of a
conventional MCR after modernisation.
That is, some of the analog HSIs
mounted in the cabinet will be replaced
with digital HSIs, so different styles of
HSIs might be combined. Figure 2 shows
a cabinet with a typical hybrid HSI. The
MCR: main control room; HIS: human–system interface. video display units, marked by circles, are
the digital interfaces that display digital
communication systems. The third part of review of HSI support, such as the information to operators for monitoring
the guidelines was developed for the maintainability of digital systems. The staff the system. Although the replacement of
review of workstations and workplaces. can select the adaptive items from the the original analog HSIs is expected to
The fourth part of the guidelines provides a HFE guidelines to organize a checklist enhance operator performance and

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reliability after strict operator training, the guidelines for the assessment of HSI could not identify. The complete set of
new HSIs might pose new challenges for design implementation. In the development interview questions is provided in Table 1.
operators, such as coordination demands of NUREG-0700,15 revision 1, published in
on operational teams (e.g. the need for 1996, several topics were identified as
III. Results
communication to promote situation “gaps” due to insufficient technical bases
awareness), leading to new interaction upon which to develop guidance. One A case of a NPP in Taiwan was examined
situations of operators and systems. such topic was the integration of advanced with the evaluative approach in this study.
Recent studies of human factors and HSI technology into conventional MCRs. This NPP, with boiling water reactors, was
ergonomics have made it clear that Therefore, NUREG-0700,6 revision 2, designed and built in the 1970s, and
changing an MCR design from published in 2002, included additional problems were foreseen with obtaining
conventional to advanced technologies topics (e.g. Safety Function and Parameter spare parts, increased maintenance
(e.g. levels of automation, digital HSIs, and Monitoring System, Soft Control System, costs, and a lack of competence related
computer-based procedures) can affect Computer-based Procedure System, and to operation with the old analog HSIs. In
the situation awareness, performance, and Maintainability of Digital Systems) response to these threats, the NPP was
workload of operators.9–13 Such effects will addressing advanced HSI technology in upgraded with new digital display HSIs
continue to change until the entire order to eliminate these gaps. for the power range neutron monitor,
modernisation process is completed. There are thousands of guidelines which provides critical information for
During the process, the operators have to distributed among 13 topics in NUREG- operators during the procedure of reactor
try to adapt themselves to the upgraded 0700,6 revision 2, but not all of the startup and shutdown tasks, as
HSIs. However, if the new digital HSIs and guidelines are suitable for evaluating hybrid replacements for analog indicators for the
hybrid MCRs are not designed and HSIs of the conventional MCR. Therefore, average power range monitor. Analysis of
evaluated correctly from a human factors selecting guidelines according to the type the results is provided below.
perspective, the potential for human error of HSI for developing a checklist is
will increase, and the benefits of the new necessary, and then experts on HFE can
C. NUREG-0700
technology will not be realized. In this evaluate the digital HSIs via the checklist
regard, the objective of this study is to based on NUREG-0700,6 revision 2. The Focused on the digital HSIs in the
present a regulatory approach based on results of such an evaluation can indicate conventional MCR, a checklist including
human factors for evaluating the hybrid aspects needing to be re-designed based 582 items selected from NUREG-07006
HSIs of the conventional MCR. To verify on the human factors perspective. was developed. Most items on the
the practicability of the approach, a case checklist addressed display and alarm
of a NPP in Taiwan was analyzed and is topics. Experts in HFE or with operating
B. Interview questionnaire
discussed using the approach. experience of the digital HSIs were
The Interview Questionnaire, adopted invited to fill out the checklist. The results
from NUREG/CR-6749,14 was conducted indicated a total of five failing items for
II. Methods
to collect the actual operators’ concerns the digital HSIs. The fail rate of the
For evaluation of the digital HSIs in the about modernisation. The topics of the checklist was about 0.86%. The failing
conventional MCR subjectively and questionnaire are “Opinions on the New items were as follows:
objectively, two methods, including a Control Room Systems,” “Impact on
checklist based on NUREG-07006 and an Operations/Crew Performance,” •• Abbreviations should be avoided
Interview Questionnaire from NUREG/ “Training,” and “Operator Input to Design (except when terms are commonly
CR-6749,14 were applied in this study. The and Transition.” The operators were referred to by their initials).
methods are introduced in detail as follows. interviewed in crews. The primary •• The use of the letters O and I in a
purpose of the interviews was to obtain non-meaningful code should be
the operators’ perspectives on how they avoided because they are easily
A. Checklist based on NUREG-0700
used the new digital HSIs and how the confused with the numbers 0 (zero)
NUREG-0700,6 the Human–System digital HSIs had affected their and 1 (one), respectively.
Interface Design Review Guideline, was performance as individuals and as a •• A maximum limit on the number and
developed to provide HFE guidance to the team. The questions investigate the rate of unsuccessful LOG-ON
US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It perceived impact of the digital HSIs on attempts should be imposed.
describes those aspects of the HSI design operator workload, situation awareness, •• If there are pending actions and the
review process that are important to the and communication and coordination user requests a log-off, the system
identification and resolution of human among the team members. Furthermore, should inform the user that these
engineering discrepancies that could it was hoped that the questionnaire would actions will be lost and allow the user
adversely affect plant safety. NUREG- uncover design faults that the results of to cancel either the pending actions
07006 also provides detailed HFE the checklist based on NUREG-07006 or the log-off.

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Table 1.  Interview questions

Category Question

Opinions on the New Control Room Systems Now that you have experienced all digital systems, overall what features do you think will make a
difference in how you do your job?

  What do you see as the major impact of the new alarm system on operator performance?

  What do you see as the major impact of the new display system on operator performance?

  When do operators use the VDU displays and who uses them?

  How well are the digital systems integrated with each other and the existing controls and displays?

  Much of the information provided by the new systems was presented on VDUs. Was the viewing area
provided by VDUs sufficient?

  Information presented by the new systems involves software processing. Is it easy to understand how the
software processes data and what the displayed information means? How confident are you in the
accuracy of the information provided by the new systems?

  If you were designing the next version of this system, what improvements would you recommend?

  In what situations do you think this system is most useful (e.g. normal plant conditions, minor
abnormalities, plant faults that result in a trip, complex multiple fault situations)?

  Do you have any concerns about using this new system? Things that you worry about?

Impact on Operations/Crew Performance Do you think that the digital systems change how you work as a team to respond to incidents? In what
ways? Do you think these changes make you better able to handle an incident? Do you have any

  You ran one simulated scenario where none of the computerized systems were available (simulating a
computer system failure). The following questions relate to the differences between the handling the event
with and without the new systems.

Training Do you think based on the training you have gotten so far, that you would feel confident using these new
systems in an actual incident?

  What additional activities or training do you think is needed before you will feel confident in using these
new systems in an actual incident?

Operator Input to Design and Transition We are trying to study how control rooms are being updated (how operator input is obtained and used, the
transition process for introducing the new systems) in order to provide recommendations for future
upgrades to insure that operator concerns are taken into account. What are some things you think have
been good about the upgrade process for your control room that you would recommend to other plants?
Are there things you would recommend be done differently?

VDU: video display unit.

•• An audible signal should be digital display could show grouped and operators demonstrated that although
presented at specified intervals prior integrated information on the system, the frequency of communication
to automatic log-off. so monitoring information was decreased due to the digital HSIs, the
convenient and efficient. Next, they also quality of communication increased;
emphasized that digital information had that is, the operator teamwork was
D. Interview questionnaire
higher readability than analog better while they were using digital
Most of the responses of the operators information, such as that from a dial HSIs. Third, regarding “Training,”
were positive and constructive across indicator. In addition, operators noted operators commented that simulators
all of the topics of the questionnaire. A that digital HSIs could record historical of digital HSIs needed to be provided
summary of the operators’ responses is data of abnormal conditions for for training before the digital HSIs were
provided below. First, regarding diagnosis of operating problems. installed in the MCR. Finally, regarding
“Opinions on the New Control Room Second, regarding “Impact on “Operator Input to Design and
Systems,” operators noted that the Operations/Crew Performance,” Transition,” the operators suggested

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that the digital HSIs that were upgraded suggestions. The positive results were also 3. Xu S, Song F, Li Z, Zhao Q, Luo W, et al. An
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control room modernization program. NUREG/
realized, while potential operating problems This research received no specific grant
CR-6749, 2002. Washington, DC: US Nuclear
are avoided.16 from any funding agency in the public, Regulatory Commission.
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Persensky J. Human-system interface design
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