The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has awarded the Institute for Simulation & Training a five-year, $1.3 million contract to create a human performance test facility that will help assess nuclear plant upgrades and how human system interface designs affect workload, situation awareness, teamwork and performance.

IST’s assignment is to create and evaluate scenarios to help the NRC gain a greater knowledge of best practices for modifying power plants and meeting minimal safety standards. The NRC has emphasized the need for automation teaming between humans and agents. Another growing need, according to the NRC, is multiple reactor monitoring as nuclear plants upgrade older control centers to more highly automated digital controls.

Dr. Lauren Reinerman-Jones, a research faculty member of IST’s ACTIVE Lab group, is the project’s principal investigator. “We’ll work with the NRC to discover the best designs for meeting minimal safety standards and efficient plant operation,” she said.

The project calls for IST to house one of the NRC’s two nuclear test simulators. Dr. Reinerman-Jones’s group will use the simulator to design and evaluate the scenarios that test crew performance, individual performance and cognitive awareness. IST will work closely with NRC personnel to develop experimentation with actual operator input.

The NRC requires extensive training and rigorous examinations for nuclear plant operators. Maintaining those licenses is a two-year cycle of continual lectures, proficiency tests and an annual comprehensive examination.