Utilizing Low Frequency Technology
Nick Camilli is a project engineer and senior technical leader in EPRI’s Nuclear Maintenance Application Center program.
Nuclear power plants are complicated structures, built ruggedly to withstand earthquakes, tornadoes and other natural disasters. The tons of concrete, rebar, and steel that give the plant its structural integrity, however, can complicate communications.
Wireless signals don't readily pass through these materials, typically resulting in "dead zones" throughout the plant. An improved, cost-effective communications capability would enable the plant to tap into data that can enhance efficiency and reduce operations and maintenance costs.
While conventional Wi-Fi may seem like an attractive alternative, the limited coverage achieved by operating at twenty-four hundred megahertz or five thousand megahertz requires many Wi-Fi access points. Each access point requires both a power and ethernet cable, increasing costs and making for an elaborate design modification at a nuclear plant.
The question Electric Power Research Institute sought to answer was whether frequencies below one thousand megahertz would allow for better connectivity so that fewer access points were required. To find the answer, EPRI conducted demonstrations at two shut-down nuclear units using a distributed antenna system at frequencies above and below one thousand megahertz.