I&C Engineer – Instrumentation and Controls

npp control room

One segment of electrical engineering in the nuclear power industry that you may find intriguing as an electrical engineer is instrumentation and controls, or “I&C” as it’s known. Though largely electrical in nature, I&C is a combination of mechanical and electrical engineering . . . .

I&C is a specific discipline within the industry, but it will probably be alien to anyone coming out of college since it’s not a standard academic division of engineering.

The discipline combines control and data acquisition using traditional PLC-like equipment and signal transducers with mechanically-oriented tasks like designing instrumentation tubing for air flows or fluid flows.

Throughout a plant, there are various parameters that need to be detected and measured, things like temperatures, fluid velocities and levels, pressures, and even radiation flux. Sometimes these parameters are simply reported in places like the control room on various indicators. Sometimes they are critical inputs to other processes.


Sometimes certain equipment uses a motive force other than electricity to drive it. Motor-operated valves are common equipment, which are valves attached with an electrical motor connected to a power source and a control circuit which let it be operated either remotely or from nearby hand switches. But every now and then there’s a need to install a new, or interface with an existing, air-controlled valve. Such a valve might require both low-voltage DC power and control signals as well as a connection to the plant air supply for use as the motive, or actuating, force.

Using air instead of electricity to drive a valve is an aspect of diversity.

These various parameters (flow, level, temperature, pressure, etc) are called process variables. As an electrical engineer, you may be tasked with selecting the instrument, supplying set points, routing power to it, or creating new indicators supplied by a signal connection from the instrument in some place like the control room. If you are working with safety-related instrumentation, that means you may be working with safety-related set points that may have Tech Spec implications. They will probably require being documented in formal calculations. Be aware.