The ability to extend calibration intervals for nuclear plant instrumentation has multiple benefits for improving productivity and reducing operating costs at nuclear plants. Benefits include fewer calibrations inside containment during an outage and associated reduced critical path time and ALARA exposure, reduced risk of calibration error or instrument damage during removal and replacement, and reduced operations and maintenance cost for instrument removal, calibration and replacement.
A good instrument calibration program ensures instruments are checked frequently enough to provide a high level of confidence that they are performing within acceptable limits, but no more frequently. Over-testing of plant instruments and equipment should be avoided for two reasons: valuable resources are expended on maintenance that might not measurably improve plant safety, reliability, or efficiency; and the potential exists for adjustment errors or equipment damage each time an instrument is removed from service for testing. Over-testing increases the risk of errors or damage being introduced without a justifiable improvement in reliability.
This paper discusses the regulatory framework for extending calibration intervals of safety related instruments for U.S. based nuclear power plants. Necessary changes to licensing, plant processes and procedures, training, and configuration management are summarized. An example application of pattern recognition modeling is provided to highlight the analytical support for the processes provided by active monitoring to confirm on-going instrument heath. The paper concludes with a listing of recommended steps to implement a practical program for extending calibration intervals of safety related instruments within the U.S. nuclear regulatory environment.