The Systems Engineering Group is part of the Nuclear Science and Technology Department at Brookhaven National Laboratory. The group's mission is to conduct research and provide in-depth technical assistance pertaining to the design and operations of complex systems, including their hardware, software, and human elements. Complex systems are large, socio-technological enterprises that meet our Nation’s critical needs, like energy, security, transportation, and health. The group’s research helps support safe and reliable applications of new and emerging technologies to a wide range of complex systems. Some examples of program areas include nuclear power plant safety, human factors engineering, and electric power engineering.
The Systems Engineering Group has numerous projects with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to conduct research and perform design reviews to ensure that the 104 operating nuclear power plants in the U.S. are run safely and reliably. The work includes projects related to the current fleet of operating plants as well as new and advanced plant designs that will help meet the country’s energy needs in the future. In addition to the NRC, the group has supported regulators, designers, and utilities internationally.
HFE addresses the human role in complex systems — the operators and maintainers who are responsible for monitoring and controlling the safety systems. The Systems Engineering Group’s HFE programs have been sponsored by NRC, NASA, the Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). These programs encompass HFE design and analysis methods, human-system interface design, design evaluation, and verification and validation. The group’s methods, tools, and guidance are used internationally in the nuclear industry and many others, and have been incorporated into many international standards.
A nuclear power plant is composed of complex mechanical and electrical systems to ensure its safety and reliability. An important component of this is backup power, and U.S. plants use DC-battery banks to supply a reliable source of normal and backup power. Using the Systems Engineering Group’s battery testing laboratory, the NRC has tasked BNL to test the effectiveness of new battery standards and the batteries' capability to supply backup power for long duration station blackout events. To do so, the group is testing and analyzing class 1E battery banks for three U.S. vendors. The group also has worked on ensuring that nuclear power plant electrical systems can survive damaging fires, and that the plants can safely shut down in the event of such fires.
Members of BNL’s Systems Engineering Group in the control room simulator for Oskarshamn Nuclear Power Plant in Sweden.