FPGA-based I&C systems have been developed and applied in aerospace and process industries since the 1990s. Although the use of FPGAs in NPPs has lagged behind in the past compared to other industries, there is an increasing number of FPGA installations in operating NPPs, most of them provided by RPC Radiy.
The FPGA technology offers an alternative to microprocessor (computer) technologies and to other types of programmable logic devices. Physically, FPGA is a semiconductor-based complex programmable device which can be configured to perform a custom-required function. It includes two entities: an FPGA chip, which is a piece of hardware that can be qualified against hardware qualification testing requirements, and the electronic design of the FPGA, represented by a set of instructions in hardware description language (HDL) that can be verified against functional requirements.
RPC Radiy has used its FPGA-based platform in I&C modernization projects at various NPPs for a wide range of safety and control functions and systems, such as reactor trip system, reactor power control and limitation system, engineered safety features actuation system, rod control system, nuclear island control system, and turbine island control system.
The above applications represented large-scale modernization projects, however, the technology can provide solutions for an even larger variety of applications, such as 'pin-to-pin’ or like-for-like type replacement of obsolete circuit board components, reverse engineering, emulation of functions performed by obsolete computers, replacement of components and sub-systems, and building full I&C systems or diverse back-up systems in new NPP designs. FPGAs can implement any safety and control functions that are typical in existing NPPs or in any new designs, therefore providing a technology-neutral implementation tool.