The field of process control instrumentation technology is broad and varied. It can be visualized in two slices. The “vertical” slice, which is functionally focused, addresses the technologies that embody the sensing, communications, monitoring, control, and command and presentation systems between the process (i.e., the reactor, heat transport, and energy conversion systems) and the plant personnel (i.e., operations and maintenance staff). The “horizontal” slice at the lowest level is equipment focused and consists of the instrumentation string from the sensors and signal processing elements to the diagnostic modules and controllers (e.g., computational platforms) to the actuation devices. The variety that constitute the process control instrumentation technology of a nuclear power plant can be difficult to address as a whole. Therefore, the tack taken in this survey is to identify technology focus areas.
Any new process control instrumentation technology for digital implementations are considered part of the plant controllers and are thus addressed under the microprocessor and computational platform categories. Concerning microprocessors, the current trend for general-purpose central processing units is directed toward higher circuit density and quicker processing speeds. However, small value would be added to this investigation by listing the latest and fastest microprocessors as part of this survey because the technology is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and the pace of product introduction in the computing industry results in fast obsolescence of specific microprocessors.