This article is reposted from NPRE News

Increased competition and fluctuations in the commercial electric sales market have renewed focus on using risk-informed approaches for developing safe and cost-effective operational strategies for nuclear power plants. Among these are new technologies to improve operational flexibility and efficiency while maintaining safety.

Zahra Mohaghegh, NPRE professor and Director of the Socio-Technical Risk Analysis (SoTeRiA) Research Laboratory, has gained an $800,000 contract (2019-2021) from the Department of Energy Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) to develop an Integrated Probabilistic Risk Assessment (I-PRA) algorithm and computational platform. The tool will be used to advance safe and cost-effective strategies for deploying new technologies.

In this NEUP project, Mogaghegh and SoTeRiA researchers Seyed Reihani and Ernie Kee will collaborate with Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and the South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company (STPNOC) to expedite the deployment of new technologies for Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs) by developing an I-PRA algorithm to support risk-and-cost-informed decision-making. The I-PRA algorithm, which originated in an earlier publication by SoTeRiA Research Laboratory, will help decision-makers prioritize resources and support the selection of alternative scenarios and operational strategies that have significant impacts on both safety risk and cost of NPPs.

The project will make methodological and computational advancements to execute the I-PRA decision-making algorithm, including:

  • modeling the spatiotemporal interactions between human performance and natural hazards, contributing to External Control Room (ExCR) Human Reliability Analysis (HRA);
  • advancing Probabilistic Validation methodology for validating simulation models developed in I-PRA;
  • advancing the PI’s risk-cost methodology for new technologies.

The case study of this project will be on the usage of Diverse and Flexible Coping Strategy (FLEX) equipment during the normal operation of nuclear power plants.

The project proposes a complementary methodology to Mohaghegh’s earlier  NEUP project (2017-2019) that couples probabilistic physics of failure models with maintenance work processes to analyze the two interrelated performance measures of nuclear power plants: safety and financial risks.

Since 2013, Mohaghegh and her research team have focused on the advancement of Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA), pioneering three key areas of scholarly development:

  • the spatiotemporal coupling of physical failure mechanisms with human performance and generating I-PRA;
  • the incorporation of big data analytics into PRA;
  • the integration of safety risk and financial risk.

SoTeRiA Research Laboratory projects are sponsored by the National Science Foundation on organizational risk analysis, the U.S. DOE on Systematic Enterprise Risk Analysis, the South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company via the U.S. Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development Program, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Coordinated Research Project “Methodology for Assessing Pipe Failure Rates in Advanced Water Cooled Reactors.” More details of ongoing research and publications can be found on the SoTeRiA Research Laboratory website:

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