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:

Tatsuya Sakurahara Receives Illinois Student Government’s Teaching Excellence Award

Congratulations to our very own Tatsuya Sakurahara for being an Excellent Teaching Assistant in the Field of PRA. See the Full Article HERE.

Sakurahara has been recognized for his dedication as a teaching assistant in two NPRE courses on Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA), NPRE 461 (Probabilistic Risk Assessment) and NPRE 498/598 (Advanced Risk Analysis), which Mohaghegh instructs. The ISG awards five Teaching Excellence Awards each year to recognize excellence in teaching and to show appreciation for outstanding University of Illinois instructors.

Tatsuya is an integral part of our laboratory, and we are so proud to see him recognized for his teaching excellence.

See the Full Article HERE.

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.


Postdoctoral Fellowship Opportunity in SoTeRiA Laboratory


The SoTeRiA Laboratory is looking or a Postdoctoral researcher to apply through the Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellows or Beckman-Brown Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral Fellows programs.

The Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellows and Beckman-Brown Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral Fellows programs are intended for recent Ph.D.s or students in their final year of doctoral study with research interests relevant to the Beckman Institute. A competition is held yearly and four to six Beckman Institute Postdoctoral Fellows and one Beckman-Brown Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral Fellow are selected. The terms are up to three years.


Please contact SoTeRiA Laboratory by emailing for guidance in preparation of your application.

Once discussing with the SoTeRiA Laboratory, visit the Beckman Website to fill out the application, which includes CV, research plan, research justification, letters of reference, etc. Applications for the Year 2017 Beckman Postdoctoral Fellows Program are now being accepted until midnight Central Time on Monday, November 28, 2016.



Assistant Prof. Zahra Mohaghegh is the 2016 winner of the American Nuclear Society Mary Jane Oestmann Professional Women’s Achievement Award. The Oestmann award of the 11,000-member ANS recognizes outstanding personal dedication and technical achievement by a woman in the fields of nuclear science, engineering, research or education.