Graduate Fellowships in NPRE: Apply in Risk Analysis/Power

SoTeRiA Lab encourages graduate students to apply for Graduate Scholarships and Fellowships under the Power area, with a focus on Risk Analysis. NPRE has several opportunities for scholarships and fellowships:

If you are interested in this path, contact us at


Mohaghegh is Chief Scientific Investigator and a representative of the United States in the coordinated research project, “Methodology for Assessing Pipe Failure Rates in Advanced Water Cooled Reactors.” The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which assists research for peaceful uses of nuclear energy and the development of practical applications throughout the world, is sponsoring the project.

This IAEA team brings together experts from academia, industry, and regulatory agencies from eight countries, including Canada, Germany, Korea, Lithuania, Malaysia, Russia, Tunisia, and the United States. The four-year project’s objective is to develop new methodologies to estimate pipe failure rates in advanced water cooled reactors for improved safety designs.

Mohaghegh and Justin Pence, an NPRE graduate research assistant, recently attended the project’s first meeting held June 12-14, 2018, in Vienna, Austria. Mohaghegh and Pence introduced SoTeRiA Laboratory’s proposed methodology on the prediction of pipe failure rates, discussed future plans for the projects, and helped to establish a unified plan for the four-year scope of the project.

Read the full story here:


Mohaghegh Awarded DOE NEUP Grant to Investigate Systematic Enterprise Risk Management

Read Original Article HERE

Envision a future in which nuclear power companies use intelligent decision-making support systems to estimate scenarios of system failure or revenue loss. Managing physical and social failure mechanisms, these systems would provide key importance measures on how to mitigate potential undesirable consequences.

In such a future, the nuclear industry could enter a new era void of catastrophic accidents, making nuclear energy cleaner, more profitable, and more sustainable.

The Department of Energy (DOE) Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) has awarded Assistant Professor Zahra Mohaghegh and her research team, the Socio-Technical Risk Analysis (SoTeRiA) Laboratory, a three-year, $800,000 grant to pursue this vision.

Entitled “Systematic Enterprise Risk Management by Integrating the RISMC Toolkit and Cost-Benefit Analysis,” the project will promote U.S. nuclear fleet sustainability by developing a systematic scenario-based Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) technology. The SoTeRiA group’s undertaking will satisfy short- and long-term regulatory design standards, improve safety, create cost savings and avoid production losses.

In this project, Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA), integrated with the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Risk-Informed Safety Margin Characterization (RISMC) Toolkit, will be used to quantify uncertainty nodes. The SoTeRiA team will work with INL risk experts to conduct a first-of-its-kind physics-social hybrid framework for quantifying long-term nuclear power plant enterprise risk scenarios.

As the Principal Investigator (PI) of this project, Mohaghegh will work with collaborators from the College of Law at Illinois, the South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company (STPNOC), ABS Consulting, and Texas A&M University. The project continues a line of research called “Monetary Value of PRA” that the PI, in collaboration with Co-PIs Arden Rowell, professor of Law at Illinois, and NPRE scientist Ernie Kee, began for analyzing the business value of risk-informed decision making for nuclear power plants and other complex systems.

Building a risk analysis ecosystem at Illinois, the SoTeRiA Laboratory has initiated projects in several other areas of PRA to meet demands faced by industry, including:

Dr. George Apostolakis on Risk-Informed Regulatory Decision-Making: March 7th at UIUC

Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA) is a key pillar in the Risk-Informed Regulatory Decision-Making framework of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). A growing number of other U.S. government agencies are evaluating the use of PRA for decision making and policy setting. Dr. George Apostolakis, former Commissioner of the NRC has had a distinguished career as a professor, an engineer, and risk analyst. During his time at the NRC, he headed the Risk Management Task Force, whose purpose was to “develop a strategic vision and options for adopting a more comprehensive, holistic, risk-informed, performance based regulatory approach” (Apostolakis, Cunningham, Lui, Pangburn, & Reckley, 2012). In the taskforce’s seminal work, NUREG-2150, a vision for the evolution of PRA in Regulatory Decision-Making is laid out, and a Risk Management Regulatory Framework for improving safety and security in high-consequence industry applications is proposed.

As a research team dedicated to advancing PRA, the Socio-Technical Risk Analysis (SoTeRiA) Laboratory contributes to the vision put forth in NUREG-2150, to develop risk models that provide “credible accident sequences by considering the facility or operation as a “system of systems” consisting of structures, systems, components, and personnel” (Apostolakis et al., 2012). Due to the socio-technical nature of risk in complex systems, SoTeRiA Laboratory has initiated several areas of research to meet demands faced by industry, including; risk-informed emergency preparedness, planning and response modeling for severe accidents, fire PRA, location-specific Loss-Of-Coolant Accident (LOCA) frequency estimations, global risk importance measures, modeling the effects of human and organizational influences on technical system failure, estimating the monetary value of PRA, , and developing a risk-informed resolution of Generic Safety Issue 191, a long-standing issue for commercial nuclear power plants and the NRC. In a time where over-standardization in regulations is an important topic in the public narrative, risk-informed approaches can have significant impacts on safety improvements, cost-reductions and sustainability of high-consequence industries.

The Honorable George Apostolakis will present at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Grainger Lecture Series on March 7th, at 12:00 p.m. in Talbot Laboratory Room 103. Please see the flier below for more information.


Later in the day on March 7th, at 3:00 PM in Beckman Institute 2269-2nd Floor Tower Room, there will be an Informal Student Discussion with Dr. Apostolakis where students are encouraged to bring questions and discuss their multidisciplinary research.

See Flier Here



Apostolakis, G., Cunningham, M., Lui, C., Pangburn, G., & Reckley, W. (2012). A Proposed Risk Management Regulatory Framework. NUREG-2150, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, April.



Assistant Professor Zahra Mohaghegh of the Department of Nuclear, Plasma and Radiological Engineering (NPRE) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), is a recipient of the university’s 2016 Engineering Council Award for Excellence in Advising. This award is in recognition of the important role that advisors play in the academic planning process of engineering students on campus and is given to the top 10 percent of engineering advisors.

See the NPRE article for more information: