Integrating Digital and Conventional Human-System Interfaces: Lessons Learned from a Control Room Modernization Program (NUREG/CR-6749, BNL-NUREG-52638)

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Publication Information

Manuscript Completed: August 2001
Date Published: September 2002

Prepared by:
Emilie Roth
Roth Cognitive Engineering (Subcontractor)
89 Rawson Road
Brookline, Massachusetts 02445-4509

John O’Hara
Energy Sciences and Technology Department
Brookhaven National Laboratory (Principal Contractor)
Upton, New York 11973-5000

Paul M. Lewis, NRC Project Manager

Prepared for:
Division of Systems Analysis and Regulatory Effectiveness
Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555-0001

NRC Job Code W6546

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This study examined the impact of introducing advanced human-system interfaces (HSIs) into a conventional nuclear power plant control room. The advanced HSIs include a computer-based procedure system, an advanced alarm system, and a graphic-based plant information display system. The impact of the new systems on the cognitive functioning of individual crew members and on the structure and functioning of the crew as a team was examined. Information on crew performance was obtained by observing crews during full-scope training simulations of plant disturbances. In addition, interviews were conducted with operators and other utility and vendor personnel. The general findings were that the new HSIs provided positive support for crew performance, reduced workload, and were well accepted by the crews. One of the more interesting and significant effects introduced by the advanced HSI systems was on crew structure and communication. The computer-based procedure system enabled the shift supervisor to access plant state information directly, reducing the need to ask board operators for plant parameter values. In turn, the board operators had access to a richer source of plant state information via the advanced alarm system and graphic-based plant information system than previously was available, enabling them to monitor plant state more broadly. These changes have potential implications for human performance and reliability. The fact that crews use multiple independent sources of information and multiple independent perspectives may increase the crew reliability by increasing the probability of detecting and correcting errors in situation assessment, thus reducing the potential for errors of intention. However, the improvement in human performance and reliability depends on the crew's ability to effectively communicate and maintain a shared situation awareness. The study provides illustrative cases where successful performance is dependent on effective communication among crew members. While this study began exploring these issues, further research is required to establish how new HSIs affect crew structure, communication, decision-making and reliability. The lessons learned from this investigation will be used to support human factors guidance development addressing these topics.

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